The battle of Troy

When the San Diego Chargers traded out of the 15th pick in the 2003 NFL Draft, they swapped picks with the Philadelphia Eagles and ended up with Sammy Davis and Terrence Kiel. Philadelphia selected Jerome McDougle, but it was the trade that happened next that will affect the Chargers most this week.

The Steelers swapped picks with the Kansas City Chiefs to select USC safety Troy Polamalu. Coming into the draft that year, Polamalu was seen as a player that could make an impact, especially with the Chargers as they lacked a safety presence.

The Chargers would get their safety with the 62nd pick, Terrence Kiel.

Perhaps it is ironic that Drayton Florence is starting over Sammy Davis these days. Florence was taken with the Chargers original second round pick and Polamalu has turned into a star with Pittsburgh.

What separates him from the pack is ability to make game changing plays. In his first season as a starter, Polamalu picked off five passes.

This year he already has three sacks and an interception through three games.

"He's a playmaker," Pittsburgh head coach Bill Cowher admitted. "There's no question about that. In his first year, we moved him around a lot. I think it paid off in his second year when he came in and became the starter. He had a great year last year and has really picked up where he left off. Troy is a great student of the game. He has a great feel for it and can do a lot of things. He can cover, rush, play the ball. He's one of those unique players who has a lot of skills. Couple that with him being a student of the game and having great instincts, that makes him a very productive player."

In his career as a 3-year starter at USC, Polamalu had 278 tackles (29 stuffs), 6 interceptions (3 returned for TDs), 13 deflections, 2 fumble recoveries and 4 blocked punts.

His 118 tackles in 2001, including twenty in the Las Vegas Bowl, were second in the PAC-10 and most at USC since 1986 when six-time NFL Pro Bowler Tim McDonald roamed the USC defensive backfield. He was hailed as the school's finest defensive back since the Ronnie Lott era (1977-80).

And leading up to the draft his stock soared from on the edge of the first round to the middle of it. It is easy to see why now that he is in his third year.

"I think he's fascinating, I really do," Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "It's fun to watch him play because he's having fun."

While he is having fun, Davis continues his learning curve in San Diego. Bumped from the starting lineup, Davis has still found a way to get burned in the first few weeks of the season.

Polamalu will be a key component of the defense that the Steelers bring to town and it could be a case of what was missed. He is eager to avenge the loss to New England last season and is taking out on his opponents this year.

"I know, from what I'd done personally, I could've done a lot to change the outcome of the game," Polamalu said of the postseason contest a year ago.

Aiming to improve, he did his own research.

"I watched every single play in the whole season of all the other big-time safeties in the NFL," Polamalu admitted. "I made a highlight tape of them; made a low-light tape of them."

Monday, the Chargers will get to see the player they passed on. It will be a time to reminisce for fans as they were adamant about adding him during that draft season. While it is still too early to define the careers, the Chargers may be thinking they would like to have a do over if they could rewrite history.


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