View Full Version : Cute little special interest story about Troy back in Oregon

07-06-2009, 01:40 PM

Troy Polamalu still feels at home
NFL star, former Tenmile resident returns to Douglas County
DAN JONES/The News-Review

As his eight-month-old son Paisios watched in amusement, Troy Polamalu let a few strands of red licorice dangle from his mouth before chewing them up at Legion Field.

His cousin, Horizon starting pitcher Paul Polamalu, was on the mound facing Class A American Legion opponent Pepsi on Friday. This was a can't-miss game for the older Polamalu, who once played for the AAA Dr. Stewart's squad with current Pepsi head coach Richie Charles.

But Troy Polamalu, who graduated from Douglas High in 1999, settled on football. That decision proved to be a valuable one for him and a painful one for the NFL offenses he terrorizes on Sundays in the fall. The former Tenmile resident is a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers and one of the best defenders in the league. With faith and family guiding him, the strong safety has remained strong, and humble, throughout his rapid climb to superstardom.

The former Tenmile resident, who returned to his roots to catch a game and attend a wedding in Eugene, was Mr. Inconspicuous on this day at the ballpark. He wore a simple green T-shirt and cross necklace. The long, curly hair that makes him so identifiable on NFL fields was wrapped tightly in a bun. Occasionally, he would flip through an American Legion baseball program or turn to say something to his wife or cousin, who sat next to him. Mostly, he watched.

But in his own low-pitched way, Polamalu let his hair down.

“You are treated as just another guy out here, which is nice,” Polamalu said as he left after the opener of the Pepsi/Horizon doubleheader.

A devoted husband, father and man of faith, Polamalu is polite and affable. His soft-spoken, peaceful demeanor reflects an inner strength, a silent confidence. There were no clear giveaways that this was a five-time Pro Bowl selection watching two young baseball teams go at it. Though word spread fast that Polamalu was in attendance, the conscientious spectators at Legion Field showed commendable restraint, giving the 28-year-old space and time with his family.

Getting comfortable at the park took no time for Polamalu, who moved to Douglas County at age 8 to live with Shelley and Salu Polamalu, his aunt and uncle.

“We are very fortunate to be able to come back here,” said Polamalu's wife Theodora, who met Polamalu on a blind date during his college career at USC.

Theodora and Brandon Polamalu, Troy's cousin who recently moved to Tenmile from Hawaii, sat next to the NFL star. Polamalu, who arrived earlier in the week, was making his first trip back to Douglas County since last July. He had not yet seen Paul Polamalu pitch. The family lives in Pittsburgh during football season and in San Diego, Calif., during the off-season.

“It is nice,” Polamalu said. “Things haven't changed here, which is really nice. It brings back a lot of good memories. We had a pretty good run while I was here. Nice to see Richie, an old teammate, an old elementary school buddy. That's always a blessing.”

Theodora gave Douglas County the ultimate compliment.

“It is really one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to,” she said.

Don Severson, a long-time American Legion coach who is now manager of Pepsi and a PA announcer, was thrilled to hear of Polamalu's presence.

“It just shows that they are real supporters of the program that they went to,” Severson said. “They like to come back and watch them play. I had a little trouble with saying ‘Polamalu' on the mic when he first came on. It was a lot of fun.”

As memories flowed, so too did the game. Paul Polamalu went the distance on the mound as his relatives watched.

“I just came out and did what I normally do,” Paul Polamalu said. “(Troy) just told me before the game not to worry about him being there. Just go throw strikes.”

Pepsi first baseman Tyler Bullock told Charles during batting practice that he heard that Polamalu would be at the game. Charles, a Roseburg High alumnus, and Polamalu both graduated from high school in 1999. The two played for the Docs their sophomore and junior years. Polamalu was a leadoff hitter and center fielder.

“Let me tell you, he could play,” Charles said of Polamalu.

They were co-captains in 1998 and were frequently roommates on road trips.

“I mean some of these kids don't even know that I knew him,” Charles said. “There was a buzz. When you are 15, 16 years old and you see a guy sitting in your stands who's just won a Super Bowl, that's big.”

Charles had not seen Polamalu since high school. He held his three-and-a-half-month-old daughter Addison next to Paisios after Game 1. With the upcoming nightcap suddenly feeling secondary, Charles and Polamalu posed for a picture and exchanged a few words.

In Roseburg, Polamalu rediscovered small-town charm. A few fans gave him hugs and handshakes. A mother gave him an update on how her family was doing from the stands as Polamalu listened from below. A trio of Roseburg wrestlers watched casually from the hood of a car as Polamalu and his family drove away.

“You haven't met him before?” one of them said.

Then the man who's made a living with his earth-shaking hits and dangerous speed cautiously drove away.

• You can reach sports reporter Dan Jones by e-mail at djones@nrtoday.com, or by phone at 957-4219.


Pittsburgh Steelers safety and Douglas High graduate Troy Polamalu gives an autograph to Leroy Charles, of Tenmile, while holding his eight-month old son Paisios at Legion Field Friday evening. The Horizon Motormen and the Pepsi Bottlecaps played a twinbill at the ballpark.
JEFF WICK/The News-Review


Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburg Steelers poses for pictures with Pepsi coach Richie Charles after Game 1 of the American Legion doubleheader Friday night at Roseburg's Legion Field.
JEFF WICK/The News-Review