In his career as a 3-year starter, Polamalu has 278 tackles (29 for losses), 6 interceptions (3 returned for TDs), 13 deflections, 2 fumble recoveries and 4 blocked punts.
Polamalu, who started for his third yeat at strong safety as a senior in 2002, became USC's first 2-time All-American first team pick since offensive tackle Tony Boselli in 1992 and 1994 by making the 2002 AP, Football Writers, Walter Camp, ESPN.com and CBS.Sportsline.com All-American first teams, The Sporting News All-American second team and CNNSI.com All-American honorable mention. He was 1 of 3 finalists for the Thorpe Award in 2002. He also was a repeat All-Pac-10 first teamer in 2002. He also made The Sporting News' All-Pac-10 first team. Overall in 2002 while appearing in 12 games (all but California), he had 68 tackles, including 9 for losses of 44 yards (with 3 sacks for 27 yards), plus an interception which he returned 33 yards, 6 deflections and 3 forced fumbles. He did all this despite playing with a nagging ankle sprain for the second half of 2002 (he hurt it early in the Washington State game and was sidelined versus California) and missing all but 2 plays of the Orange Bowl against Iowa because of a hamstring injury. Sports Illustrated named him as 1 of 5 "Terminators" in college football in 2002, a player "boasting an otherworldly combination of speed, strength and athleticism…who can single-handedly kill off drives and wreak havoc on game plans." His jersey currently was on display at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., in the "Race for the Pantheon" exhibit that highlighted the nation's 10 leading candidates for post-season individual honors. A team captain for the second consecutive year, he also won USC's Most Inspirational Player Award and Co-Lifter Award. He was invited to play in the 2003 East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl.
He had 7 tackles (1 for a loss) against Auburn. He had a team-high 11 tackles at Colorado, earning Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week honors. At Kansas State, he had 7 tackles (2 for losses, with a sack), a deflection and forced a fumble (which was recovered by USC for a TD). He had 4 tackles and a deflection against Oregon State. He sprained his ankle on the first series at Washington State and saw only brief action late in the second half (he didn't make a tackle), then sat out the California game with the ankle sprain. He returned to the starting lineup against Washington and had 5 tackles, an interception (which he returned 33 yards to set up a USC field goal) and a deflection. At Oregon, he had 7 tackles (1 for a loss). He had a game-high 13 tackles at Stanford, including 2 for losses (with a sack). He made 5 tackles and had a deflection against Arizona State. He had 4 tackles (with a sack), a forced fumble and 2 pass deflections at UCLA. He had 5 tackles (2 for losses, with a sack) and forced a fumble against Notre Dame. He got in for only 2 plays against Iowa in the Orange Bowl because of a hamstring injury (he didn't make a tackle).
Polamalu made a number of big plays seemingly in every game in 2001. In his second season as the starting strong safety as a junior in 2001, he was named to the 2001 Football Writers All-American first team, College & Pro Football Newsweekly All-American first team, AP All-American second team, The Sporting News All-American third team, Football News All-American third team and All-Pac-10 first team. A team captain, he was USC's first All-American safety since Mark Carrier in 1989. He also won USC's MVP Award. Overall in 2001 while starting all 12 games, he had a team-high 118 tackles, including 13 for losses of 24 yards (with a 2-yard sack), 6 deflections, a team-best 3 interceptions which he returned 116 yards (38.7 avg.)-including a pair run back for TDs-2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery (to set up a TD), 3 blocked punts and 3 punt returns for 27 yards (9.0 avg.). He tied for second in the Pac-10 in tackles (8.9) and tied for fifth in forced fumbles (2). His 118 tackles were the most by a Trojan safety since Tim McDonald had 140 in 1986. He was USC's leading tackler in 8 games in 2001, including 6 in a row (and his tackles in 7 of those 8 games were also game highs).
In the San Jose State opener, he had 7 tackles (1 for a loss) and a deflection, then had a game-high 13 tackles (3 for losses) and forced a fumble against Kansas State. He added 7 stops and a deflection at Oregon, a game-high 10 tackles (1 for a loss) and also blocked a punt against Stanford, and a team-best 13 tackles (2 for a loss) and returned an interception 22 yards for a TD (the second scoring pick of his career) at Washington. He then had a game-high 8 tackles versus Arizona State, a game-high 11 tackles and recovered a fumble (which set up a TD) at Notre Dame and a game-best 12 tackles (with a sack) at Arizona. He was named the Pac-10 Special Teams Player of the Week as he had a game-best 11 tackles (2 for losses), deflected 2 passes, forced a fumble and blocked a punt which USC recovered for a TD against Oregon State. At California, he had 4 tackles and ran an interception 58 yards for an interception (his second scoring pick return of 2001 and third of his career. He was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week as he had 2 stops to go along with a 36-yard interception runback and a blocked punt to set up a pair of USC field goals against UCLA. Against Utah, he had a Las Vegas Bowl-record and career-high 20 tackles (including 12 solo, also a game record), with 3 for losses, and a deflection to earn USC's game MVP honor.
As just a sophomore, Polamalu started all 12 games of 2000 at strong safety and made an impressive impact. Overall in 2000, he was second on the Trojans in tackles with 83 (including 5 for losses of 10 yards, with a 4-yard sack), plus he tied for the team lead in both interceptions with 2 (1 returned for a TD in the Penn State opener) and deflections with 7, and had a fumble recovery which he returned 19 yards (against Colorado to set up a TD and Oregon). He was a 2000 All-Pac-10 honorable mention pick.
He had a 43-yard scoring interception return to go along with 2 tackles in the Penn State opener. He made 5 stops and returned a fumble 19 yards to set up a USC TD against Colorado. He added 4 tackles with a deflection versus San Jose State, another 5 stops (with a sack) at Oregon State and 1 tackle against Arizona. He had a game-high and then-personal-best 13 tackles (2 for losses) and intercepted a pass against Oregon, then had 11 tackles at Stanford and 5 (1 for a loss) against California. He had a team-high and career-best 14 tackles at Arizona State, then had 7 tackles and a deflection against Washington State and 2 more stops at UCLA. His 14 tackles (1 for a loss) tied for a game high and career best against Notre Dame.
Polamalu was an often-used backup safety and linebacker, as well as a special teams player, as a freshman in 1999, his first year at USC. Overall in 1999 while appearing in 8 games, he made 12 tackles, including 2 sacks for minus 28 yards, forced 2 fumbles (at Hawaii and Oregon), broke up a pass and blocked a punt (against Louisiana Tech). He had 4 tackles (with a sack) each at Hawaii and Oregon. He missed the Stanford, California, Arizona State and Washington State contests after suffering a concussion in practice prior to the Stanford game.
He was named to 1998 Super Prep All-Northwest, Tacoma News Tribune Western 100 and All-Far West League second team as a senior at Douglas High in Winston (Ore.). He played in only 4 games of the 1998 season because of injuries (bruised kidney, sprained shoulder and torn back muscles), but still rushed for 671 yards and 9 touchdowns, plus had 3 interceptions.
As a 1997 junior, he rushed for 22 TDs and 1,040 yards, had 310 receiving yards and made 65 tackles and 8 interceptions. He was All-State and All-Far West League Offensive MVP as Douglas went 9-1.
He ran for 1,003 yards, had 340 receiving yards and scored 20 TDs (plus picked off 6 passes) as a 1996 sophomore while making the All-Far West League first team as a running back and second team as a defensive back.
He added 430 rushing yards, 5 scores and 2 interceptions as a freshman in 1995 and was named to the All-Far West League second team. In his career at Douglas, he averaged 6 touchdowns a season.
He also played baseball (he was an All-State centerfielder) and basketball (twice making All-League first team) at Douglas.
He's a social sciences/history major at USC. His brother, Kaio Aumua, played football at UTEP. His uncle is former USC fullback Kennedy Pola (1982-85), now the Trojans' running backs coach and special teams coordinator. Another uncle, Al Pola, played football at Penn State. A cousin, Nicky Sualua, was a running back with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Dallas Cowboys who attended Ohio State. Another cousin, Leie Sualua, was a defensive lineman at Oregon. Another cousin, Joe Polamalu, played for Oregon State in 1987 and 1988. His full name is Troy Polamalu Aumua. He was born in Garden Grove, Calif., and lived Santa Ana until he was 9, when he moved in with an aunt, uncle and 3 cousins in Tenmile, Ore. (200 miles from Portland in the southwest part of the state) to get away from Orange County gang influences. His hobbies are woodworking and making furniture, as well as reading the Bible. He learned how to play the piano (and read music) during his 2001 junior year.
TROY POLAMALU ON:
Being named an All-American in 2001: "I hate to get an award that separates me from the team."
Playing safety: "The thing I like about the safety position is the freedom. You can see more of the field and have more room to react and make plays…I always dreamed of coming to USC and playing running back. I guess, though, that I am more suited to playing safety."
His playing philosophy: "Go out there and give it everything you've got. I have developed the Samoan mentality-you have to be a gentleman everywhere but on the field. On the field, play like it is a game of life. Give everything you have…The way I feel is that if you go out and half-speed things and play things safe, you can end up getting hurt. So I always try to lay myself out on the line and sacrifice my body for the team."
His daily ritual of staying after practice to work on his technique and conditioning: "I use the time to think about what I did during the last game. I think about what I need to work on…There are so many things you can do to get better. A lot of people take things for granted. They just want to get through practice. I just want to do whatever I can to become the best…I believe that God has blessed me with a gift, an ability, and that it's something I need to keep working on. I never walk away when I can still push myself and try to improve…Sometimes I burn myself out during practice and I know that's not good. But I believe that you get everything you work for, so I always want to work hard…When I came to USC, I was the least-recruited player. I came in here and nobody knew who I was. It was all about working hard and making a name for myself. It's nice to go from nobody talking about you to being in somebody's conversation…My freshman year, I had to establish that everyone on the practice field was equal. They threw a bad pass and (ex-USC receiver) R. Jay Soward-he was the big star at the time-was kind of trotting through his route, and I went over and blindsided him. He got up cussing me, but later he told me I was okay. I think that got me noticed a little bit."
His uncle, USC assistant coach Kennedy Pola: "Having him out on the field is just like having another coach. I know that if he were coaching me he would be pushing me harder. So thank God he's not the secondary coach! But I'm happy to have him here and around. It's made it so much easier on me to have somebody to talk to and someone to help me out…There's absolutely nothing I don't like about having him on the coaching staff. He helps me out so much, just being there to talk to him. I'd hate to see what it would be like without him. Plus, I can hit him up for money whenever I need it! Just kidding…When he was coaching at Colorado, I wanted to go there. Then he went to Washington, but I didn't want to go there because it rains so much. I think he gave (then USC head) coach Hackett a call and said, 'Check out my nephew.' So I came down here on a trip and fell in love with it. At that time, Kennedy was down coaching at San Diego State and he was telling me, 'I'll be there with you one of these days.' And here he is."
How football teaches life lessons: "Say it is first and goal, we're playing Notre Dame and we're down by 2 points. Someone needs to make a big play. That's a tough situation in football. If I was actually able to make a play in that sort of situation, I can tell myself in life, when my back is to the wall, I can pull myself up because I've been in a similar situation. I think that is what God is trying to tell me, that he is trying to teach me lessons through the game of football rather than in life. That's why I take football so seriously."
His first name: "I believe God named me Troy for a reason. I was born to come here."
Moving to Oregon when he was young: "I was only supposed to stay for three weeks. But I fell in love with the place. It's beautiful. I called my mom and asked if I could stay one more week. That week ended, and I called and begged her to let me stay up there. I just knew I had to get away…She had maybe a split second to make the decision. It's got to be the hardest decision a mother can make…My mom made a very brave decision. It must have hurt her a great deal, but she let me stay. She knew it was best…I loved it up there. Of course, the sun was out then!"
Wanting to be a teacher: "I love working with children. I want to be a teacher. I want children to look up to me. I want to be a good role model…Being an athlete, you are automatically a role model. But this will end one day, so I've always wanted to become a teacher. I've always dreamed about kids saying, 'Mom, Dad, guess who our teacher is? It's Troy Polamalu!'"
WHAT OTHERS SAY:
USC head coach Pete Carroll: "He's as good a safety as I've ever coached. He's a brilliant football player. He's just as effective as those NFL guys I coached…He is creative, fast, tough and instinctive. He has a great heart, which all great players have…He adapts to everything that we can throw out there. He makes all the adjustments, all the checks, all the calls. He helps other people play well. He can do anything we ask: blitz, cover deep, play man-to-man, and he always does a little bit extra."
USC tailback Malaefou MacKenzie: "He's going to be one of the greats before he leaves USC."
Former Utah offensive guard Ed Ta'amu: "When we watched film, everywhere we looked he was in the picture."
UCLA head coach Bob Toledo: "He's a great football player. He's all over the field. He makes plays. You'd better account for him because he's going to be around the football all the time."
Arizona head coach John Mackovic: "A lot of safeties are strong against the run but not always effective in pass defense. He's physical, arrives quickly and reads the play very well."
USC assistant coach Kennedy Pola, his uncle: "He's a small-town boy and he respects his peers and his teammates. That comes from the family, environment and community that he was raised in."
Ken Peters, Associated Press: "Sometimes it seems there's a whole group of Trojans wearing No. 43, blocking punts, returning interceptions for touchdowns, forcing fumbles, smacking punt returners to the ground. Actually, there's only one-Troy Polamalu, playing 'Fa'a Samoan' style. That roughly translates, he says, to being a gentleman everywhere but on the football field."
|1999 (Fr.)…|| 12|| 2/28|| 2#|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|2000 (So.)…|| 83|| 5/10|| 7|| 1|| 2|| 43||21.5|| 1||43|
|2001 (Jr.)…||118|| 13/24|| 9##|| 1|| 3||116||38.7|| 2||58|
|2002 (Sr.)…|| 68|| 9/44|| 4|| 0|| 1|| 33||33.0|| 0||33|
|CAREER…….||281|| 29/106||17### 2|| 6||192||32.0|| 3||58|
|#Includes 1 blocked punt|
|##Includes 3 blocked punts|
|###Includes 4 blocked punts|
|2001 (Jr.)…|| 3|| 27|| 9.0|| 0||11|
|GAME-BY-GAME WITH TROY POLAMALU|
|Auburn*|| 7|| 1/2|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Colorado*|| 11|| 0/0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Kansas State*|| 7|| 2/19|| 1|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Oregon State*|| 4|| 0/0|| 1|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Washington*|| 5|| 0/0|| 1|| 0|| 1|| 33||33.0|| 0||33|
|Oregon*|| 7|| 1/2|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Stanford*|| 13|| 2/8|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Arizona State*|| 5|| 0/0|| 1|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|UCLA*|| 4|| 1/1|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Notre Dame*|| 5|| 2/12|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|2002 (Sr.)…|| 68|| 9/44|| 4|| 0|| 1|| 33||33.0|| 0||33|
|San Jose St.*|| 7|| 1/5|| 1|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Kansas State*|| 13|| 3/4|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Oregon*|| 7|| 0/0|| 1|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Stanford*|| 10|| 1/4|| 1#|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Washington*|| 13|| 2/2|| 0|| 0|| 1|| 22||22.0|| 1||22|
|Arizona State*|| 8|| 0/0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Notre Dame*|| 11|| 0/0|| 0|| 1|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Arizona*|| 12|| 1/2|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Oregon State*|| 11|| 2/4|| 3#|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|California*|| 4|| 0/0|| 0|| 0|| 1|| 58||58.0|| 1||58|
|UCLA*|| 2|| 0/0|| 2#|| 0|| 1|| 36||36.0|| 0||36|
|Utah (Vegas)*|| 20|| 3/3|| 1|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|2001 (Jr.)…||118||13/24|| 9##|| 1|| 3||116||38.7|| 2||58|
|Penn State*|| 2|| 0/0|| 1|| 0|| 1|| 43||43.0|| 1||43|
|Colorado*|| 5|| 0/0|| 0|| 1|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|San Jose St.*|| 4|| 0/0|| 1|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Oregon State*|| 5|| 1/4|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Arizona*|| 1|| 0/0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Oregon*|| 13|| 2/4|| 2|| 0|| 1|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Stanford*|| 11|| 0/0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|California*|| 5|| 1/1|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Arizona State*|| 14|| 0/0|| 1|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Wash. State*|| 7|| 0/0|| 1|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|UCLA*|| 2|| 0/0|| 1|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|Notre Dame*|| 14|| 1/1|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0|| 0.0|| 0|| 0|
|2000 (So.)…|| 83|| 5/10|| 7|| 1|| 2|| 43||21.5|| 1||43|
|Hawaii|| 4|| 1/20|| 0|| 0|
|Oregon|| 4|| 1/8|| 1|| 0|
|Oregon State|| 1|| 0/0|| 0|| 0|
|Arizona|| 1|| 0/0|| 0|| 0|
|Notre Dame|| 1|| 0/0|| 0|| 0|
|UCLA|| 1|| 0/0|| 0|| 0|
|La. Tech|| 0|| 0/0|| 1#|| 0|
|1999 (Fr.)…|| 12|| 2/28|| 2#|| 0|
|#Includes 1 blocked punt|
|##Includes 3 blocked punts|