Q&A: Troy Polamalu

Troy Polamalu's set to make a run for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. He doesn't agree, but what else would you expect from the humble All-Pro? That and more in this wide-ranging interview.

Troy Polamalu, strong safety, Pittsburgh Steelers

You're playing like a candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Have you given that any thought?

Not really. I don't really have an opinion on that. I don't know. Right now I guess it wouldn't be a good time to comment on that coming off the game we had defensively, but I don't think so.

It seems like you're playing better than you did last year. Do you feel you've improved?

That's tough to say. I truly believe within myself, and my wife would say the same – because I would say I'm only open to her about these sensitive issues – but I don't think so. Maybe a little bit, but not as much as I really want.

In that way you'll never be satisfied, will you?

I'd be satisfied some day.

You don't watch football, but it's obvious you like football, don't you?

Truthfully I love life, and if you love life there's nothing that you can really find in life that could really disappoint you, whether it's something that you dislike or something that you like. That's kind of been my angle this whole year, and actually last year too. The last couple years, I'm just loving life, loving everything and every part of it.

Was there a turning point in your life?

Like I said, maybe a couple years ago. It was last year where I really didn't care too much about winning or losing or anything like that. My focus was all about having fun with my friends and making everybody happy. That's truly been my focus, and that whole playoff run was really fun because it was really nice to see everybody else have fun, too. Just like now, it sucks because everybody's sad, because we've had such a bad start.

What does your wife think of these ups and downs?

She doesn't pay attention to it. She doesn't care too much about football. She cares a lot about me. She's really worried about me when I'm out there because if I tell her, you know, Theodora, this weekend is going to be a real physical game, she'll be like, ‘Oh, no, I don't want you to play.' I'm like, Theodora, you can't say things like that. But she enjoys some of it. Some of it's hard, too. It's hard for her to find friends that don't have an angle for her, whether it's for tickets or autographs or something like that.

Does it bug her?

Oh, yeah. It's hard for her to find an authentic friend out here.

It's a strange land for her, isn't it?

Yeah, it is, but it's home for both of us. If there's any problem that we deal with it's that it's her finding friends, but she's got a lot of really solid friends here.

My wife doesn't read my work and I like it that way. I don't have to hear about my mistakes when I get home. Is that part of the reason you were attracted to your wife?

That's exactly the same thing. The cool thing about it is she gets one comment after a game for me for football, and that's always really funny to hear. Like she'll say, ‘Gosh, babe, they scored three touchdowns on you today.' She'll say something like that and that'll be it, and she may not know I wasn't even on the field, or whatever it is, or I would be on the field or maybe on the other side of the field and it wouldn't be my responsibility, but it's like, ‘It's your fault, babe.'

Is that the most powerful comment that you get from anyone? Is that the one you take most seriously?

I take everything my wife says seriously. I think in life in general, man, you have to take every comment everybody says, whether it's good or positive.

Taking it all in can hurt. Is it worth it?

It's worth it if you really care about the people, even if it's a bad comment or something, if it's Coach LeBeau. But if it's the press, obviously you can't pay attention to any of that stuff because it's real fickle.

How do you marry the fact that you're trying to look at the overall picture of life and football's only a game?

See, I don't see football as just a game. I really don't see it as a job, either. It's all part of life, like I said. This is our livelihood. This is what puts food on the table for a lot of families, and for a lot of guys football's the only talent they have, so in that sense it's not just a game for them. So if it's all part of life, like I explained to you earlier, than you've got to take everything, whether it's football, whether it's all your relationships with your friends, everything's more authentic and everything's more real, because if football's just a game than that means there are two different sides of you. You're playing this game as this player, this stereotypical player, this rah-rah guy, and you go home and you're not authentic, well ... for example, if you're not the same person you are on the field as you are off the field, there's something not authentic about you. Either you're not authentic on the field or you're not authentic off the field. If you're a big barbarian guy on the field, and you go home and you're just some small mellow guy, there's something fake about you there.

Are you as mellow on the field as you are now?

I would say so. (Turns to Bryant McFadden: What do you think? McFadden: Whatever you say.)

Bryant, is he a mellow cat on the field?

McFadden: Sometimes. You'all should mike him up one game when he gets riled up.

What did your wife say after the Kansas City game about getting your hair pulled?

I asked her what she thought about it. She was really angry about it. Obviously I'm coming to the defense of, you know, ‘Theodora, I'd do the same thing.' Like I said she's always worried about my health and welfare.

Now, do you take a Christ-like approach to a guy who pulls your hair?

I try to in everything.

How did you not get mad at that?

My mind was above. My mind was on God then. I was praising and thanking God for a gift like that (holds hands as if cradling imaginary football) -- thank you. I mean, someone could've shot me in the back and I still would've run to the sideline, do you know what I mean? That's what's beautiful about it, and that's what taught me some great lessons: If you keep your eyes above on God, nothing ... if somebody grabs me by the hair or anything like that, there've been great lessons in life that happened to me like that. It's not only a blessing but a great lesson to me.

Is autumn your favorite season?

No. I would say it's a very, very beautiful season, but, man, there's nothing like the sun.

You had autumn in Oregon, right?

Yeah. It's so beautiful around here. With the leaves turning it's a really beautiful drive home. When winter comes and everything's gone, no leaves on the tree ... my wife and I bought our new house and there were no leaves on any of the trees or anything like that, and then we went to California for about a month. Somebody was working outdoors on our house and took pictures and e-mailed them to us. I was like, Theodora, look man, there's leaves on our trees! We were so excited to come back.

She's your former teammate's sister. Were you surprised she wasn't a big football fan?

Yeah. She really doesn't watch much football. She's just really scared for me. She knows my angles. She knows that I'm really ... like I said you've got to live life to the fullest and you've got to love life, so whether it's taking care of my family or playing football, I'm really, really sacrificing everything I have – if it's my life or whatever it is – toward football, whether it's training, whether it's physical, you know, sticking my head in there and really doing everything I can to play football to God's given ability. And that's what scares her.

With that pure attitude, with God in your sails, so to speak, wouldn't you think she'd feel secure in that?

Yeah. But I worry about her all the time, too.

Now, coming off this past game and considering the missed tackle and the rest of the wonderful matchup you and Michael Vick had, how are you responding to that and the loss and being 2-4?

It's tough. What's really awesome about it though is this team has done the impossible. The core nucleus of this team has done the impossible two years in a row. And there's no reason why we can't do it again, and I think we all have confidence we can do it. That's why nobody's really alarmed around here.

Don't you worry you may be relying on that to the point where it's too late?

I guess you could say that, but the key to our success is we've just been ourselves. We practice the same way. We're a team. And we haven't really been in a routine this year yet, until maybe this week. We've had Mondays, Thursdays, all these different night games. Once we get in our routine I'm sure everything will be fine.


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