When the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Troy Polamalu out of USC in 2003, my sister asked me who this guy was. She thought his name was funny and because she doesn't watch college football, she had no clue as to who Polamalu was.
She couldn't even pronounce his name (she still has a hard time).
When she asked me who he was, I said, think of Ronnie Lott, only faster.
During his first six years in the NFL, he was just a strong safety. Other than his rookie season in which he didn't start a game, he has become one of the best defenders in the NFL.
In 2010, Polamalu won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, but it wasn't as a strong safety.
There really is no title for what Polamalu does. Yes, he can play the back third of the field like any other safety does. And he does it better than most.
He can slide out wide and cover the other team's best receiver, and either shut him down or come close to it.
I know people may say that a lot safeties can do that, but not like Polamalu.
But, then it gets interesting.
After being injured for most of 2009 (damn the Madden curse!), Polamalu seemed to become more than what we were used to. He doesn't line up like a safety anymore.
Sometimes, he lines up as a linebacker. Other times, he lines up like a defensive end.
And even other times, he lines up on one side, moves to the other, jumps to the middle and continues to move until the ball is snapped, in which case he attacks like the Tasmanian Devil.
In the absence of Polamalu against the Chiefs on Sunday night, Ryan Mundy did a decent job at playing safety.
Notice I did not say replacing Polamalu, because he didn't. The position Munday played was nothing like the position that Polamalu plays.
There was an argument a few years back about what a player that plays more positions should be called. I believe they settled on hybrid.
You can be a hybrid receiver/tight end, a hybrid running back/receiver and you can be a hybrid guard/center.
Even on the defensive side of the ball, you can be a hybrid defensive end/outside line backer.
Polamalu and his real position should then be called the hybrid SS/OLB/CB/DE.
All right, that may be a little long, but that does not change the fact that Polamalu does more on the defensive side of the ball and has more defensive responsibilities than any other player in the NFL.
There is a reason that Polamalu was defensive player of the year in 2010, and it is because he is successful at playing all of those different positions.
And, thank God he is a Pittsburgh Steeler!