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Friday, March 12, 2010

PSU recruiting spotlight: Maika Polamalu making name for himself



Everyone knows his last name.

And, that alone, has produced expectations and pressure, especially considering that Maika Polamalu may even play the same position in college as his famous cousin.

The thing is, the Pottsgrove High junior has a football role model in his own house. His father, Aoatoa Polamalu (He goes by Ao, which sounds like "Al"), was a starting defensive tackle on the Nittany Lions' national title team in 1986.

His uncle, Kennedy Pola, is now the running backs coach for the Tennessee Titans.

And, of course, his cousin Troy Polamalu is an all-pro safety with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Maika Polamalu is doing his best to make a name for himself.

Schools such as Penn State and Villanova have shown interest,

Mikai Polamalu comes from a family familiar to football fans. His father played for Penn State, and his cousin is Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. But Mikai is poised to make a name for himself. (Submitted)
but he's still waiting on his first written scholarship offers.

"I tell you what, I feel bad for the young man," his father said. "Everybody thinks he's the next Troy. People need to relax and let the kid get better in his own skin. . . . Those who think he should be more have their opinions. It ticks me off at times. I wish they'd just treat him as a junior in high school."

Said Maika: "It was tough as I grew up, but as I matured the pressure eased off, and I realized that I'm my own person and not him."

Certainly, the kid has skills and potential.

He's started since his freshman year on a team with at least two other big-time talents and is now a star running back and linebacker. He may be interested in trying to play college football in California, where his father and aunts and uncles grew up after leaving American Samoa.

For now, he's not sure where things are headed.

"He's big, he's physical . . . almost like a freak of nature," said Rick Pennypacker, his coach at Pottsgrove High. "He's big and strong and runs like a deer.

"But everybody thinks he's Troy Polamalu, and he's not. . . . Everybody compares him. Right away, everybody wants to talk about Troy. Everybody in our school wants Maika to get autographs of Troy, everybody wants Troy to come to our school. The kid just needs to be himself."

His best attribute?

"Not another person Penn State recruits works as hard as this kid," Pennypacker said, noting his two hours of daily speed and strength training.

And if the scholarship offers do line up as expected in the coming months, he will have an interesting choice:

Stay close to home, maybe at his father's alma mater? (Ao Polamalu was noticed by the Lions' staff while they were recruiting his brother, Kennedy).

Or he could head out West, where he was born, where much of his large family still lives and where he could truly be immersed in his heritage.

"I think Maika missed out on a lot of that. . . . I learned everything from my brothers and sisters about my heritage," said his father, the youngest of 11 kids.

"Taking him to a reunion, he's amazed. It's really neat seeing him smile, realizing that he's part of such a family."

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