TAMPA, Fla. - In the sterile world of the N.F.L., all teams take it one game at a time, and everything is a process. But just when it seems as if football players speak cliché instead of English, along comes someone like Troy Polamalu.
Polamalu plays safety for the Steelers, for whom he also serves as the resident philosopher. In six N.F.L. seasons, Polamalu has called his flowing mane “a fifth appendage,” compared football to “poetry in motion” and named his son Paisios after a Greek Orthodox saint.
What follows is Polamalu in his own words, on football and spirituality and life.
Spirit of the Game
“I don’t look at football as a violent, barbaric sport. It’s a very spiritual sport, especially for someone facing the challenges during a game: the fear of failure, the fear of getting too big an ego, of making a mistake and everybody criticizing you.” - Super Bowl XL, 2005
“They call it culinary arts, because it is an art form. If you look at a painting, you are left with a certain impression the artist wants to give you. Food is no different. The impression my wife will give me is different than the experience I will have at some first-class restaurant. The food may taste good, but it’s not as good for my soul as my wife’s cooking.” - The Sporting News, September 2006
What’s That Smell?
“Southern California has a very distinctive smell. I smelled it as soon as I got off the plane. It’s not a good smell, but it smells like home. The Oregon smell is beautiful - pine needles and fresh air - but Southern California is home.” - Orange County Register, November 2002
What’s in a Name?
“People call me crazy and a madman. Even Tasmanian Devil. I’d rather be called the Tasmanian Angel.” - Super Bowl XL, 2005
Faith and Passion
“I didn’t grow up around my father. I didn’t really grow up around my mother, either. I was raised by a community of people. Spiritually speaking, my father is in heaven, and that is who I look to for all my answers. And that’s why my faith is very strong and why my passion is strong.” - Super Bowl XL, 2005
“I have developed a Samoan mentality. You have to be a gentleman everywhere but on the field.” - Orange County Register, November 2002
Fish Out of Water
“You can throw me in the middle of China and expect me to do the same thing, but it would be different. You’re not used to the environment, the language, and that’s what it was kind of like for me, coming here to Pittsburgh, somewhere I had never been before, faces I had never seen. And it was a very hard adjustment, not only on the field, but off the field. It intertwines.” - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 2005
“Having a son changes the priorities in your life. . . . Right now, he’s still really young, but it’s nice when it’s the middle of the night, and he’s sleeping on my chest. . . . We’ve already had the most special Thanksgiving we’ve ever had. I anticipate this being the best Christmas.” - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, December 2008
Essence of the Game
Football “just loses so much of its essence when it becomes a pansy game.” - Told reporters in October 2008
“The turning point was the discipline that my uncle applied to my life.” - Super Bowl XL, after admitting he broke into houses as a child, growing up near Los Angeles
Hits to the Head