He was the ultimate competitor, leader, and teammate. Troy Polamalu was someone everyone looked forward to on Saturdays and Sundays as he would dissect opposing offenses and make plays that would leave you in awe.
After 12 years in the NFL, Polamalu announced his retirement tonight according to the Herald-Standard.
Coming out of Douglas High School in Winston (Ore.), Polamalu spent his first season as a Trojan in 1998 as a backup linebacker and safety. In eight games, Polamalu had 12 tackles and two sacks as USC went 8-5 under then head coach Paul Hackett. Over his next three seasons, Polamalu would become one of the most dominant safeties to ever put on a USC uniform. In the 2001 Las Vegas Bowl on Christmas Day, Polamalu had 20 tackles (no, that is not a mistake) in a losing effort. He would finish his career as a two-time First-Team All-Pac-10 (2001, 2002) and a First-Team All-American in 2002. He was also a finalist for the 2002 Jim Thorpe Award (Kansas State Cornerback Terence Newman won the award).
After being named an All-American, Polamalu told reporters: "I hate to get an award that separates me from the team."
The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Troy with the 16th selection in the 2003 NFL Draft. He had 38 tackles and two sacks while being named the Steelers Rookie of the Year. In the next 11 years, Polamalu was one of the best defensive players in the NFL. He finished his career as a eight-time Pro Bowler, five-time All-Pro, two-time Super Bowl Champion, and 2010 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He had 771 career tackles, 12 forced fumbles (seven recoveries), 32 interceptions, and three defensive touchdowns.
But after an injury-plagued 2014 season, Polamalu has decided to move on to the next phase of his life.
"I did not seriously consider playing elsewhere," Polamalu told the Herald-Standard. "It was just whether or not I wanted to play. I had talked to a lot of people about what I should do with my situation, and what they kept saying back to me, and which was not a sufficient reason, was 'Troy, you played 12 years in the NFL, you won Super Bowls, won individual awards. There's nothing left to prove. You have a legacy.' And I just kept saying, 'First of all, I don't care about a legacy. Second of all, I play the game because I enjoy it.' That's the reason to keep playing."
Troy Polamalu will be missed in the NFL, not only because of his on-field demeanor that included diving over opposing teams' centers on first and goal and his team-first approach, but also for his off the field humbleness.
Oh, and you can't forget that hair.
Here's to a great career as a Steeler and a Trojan.
Hey, Troy, if you are ever interested in coaching, I am sure there is a job at USC with your name on it.