As you probably already know, long-time Steelers safety Troy Polamalu announced his retirement on Friday morning. After 12 seasons, two Super Bowl championships, eight Pro Bowl nominations, a Defensive Player of the Year award, and a whole lot of memorable moments — Troy is calling it quits.
Now, as a long-time Steelers fan, only one thing came to mind when I heard Polamalu was ending his illustrious career.
Thank you for everything.
In today’s NFL, there are very few players who strive to be a good role model. Money has changed the dynamic. The value of maturity and decency has diminished in the face of raw talent. The desire to win has taken over.
Those reasons are exactly why Polamalu was such a special player. Yes he was an unbelievable athlete. Sure he seemed to make every critical play for defenses that single-handedly won Pittsburgh two Super Bowls.
But as a Pittsburgher, I don’t think of those amazing plays when I first think of Polamalu. I think of what a great representative he has been to the city of Pittsburgh.
From the beginning back in 2003 when the Steelers drafted him, you could tell Polamalu was something special. He immediately made his presence known both on the field and in the community.
After a few years of hard work and dedication, he asserted himself as one of the best defensive backs in the entire league and as a prominent member of the Pittsburgh community. He quickly became known for his interactions with fans and the positive impact he was making both on and off the field.
In 2006, Polamalu became interested in helping local veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan after a hospital visit with a young 19-year old woman who had lost her limbs in combat. After the visit and being inspired by the girl, he started The Harry Panos Fund for Veterans. The fund, named after his grandfather who fought in WWII, is dedicated to helping those who bravely served our country in foreign wars and is currently a branch of the Pittsburgh Foundation.
But Polamalu did not stop there. Just a few years later, he and his wife Theodora started the Polamalu Foundation. It was originally created with the intention of creating an avenue for the Polamalu family to share their fortune with the community around them.
Just as he did on the football field, Troy worked extremely hard at helping people. To raise money for the fund and share his heritage with the Pittsburgh community, he started a yearly Polynesian Luau in the city. The event became a huge success and eventually led to several other charitable events. Through their hard work in giving, the fund quickly grew and is now a sustained fund that provides assistance to many.
The bottom-line is — for every big interception, shoestring tackle and stunning sack Polamalu made during his career (and there were a lot!), there are at least 100 people for each that he has helped immensely.
So today, we thank you Troy. Not just for being a great football player or a great representative for the NFL, but for being a great person and role model. There certainly needs to be more like you.
Follow Justin on Twitter @RuoffonSports