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An Orthodox Christian in the NFL
Jason Cole
Jan 10, 2009, 10:00
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PITTSBURGH Ė Strong safety Troy Polamalu has become known around the Pittsburgh Steelers as the last guy out of the locker room on Sundays after home games. All of his teammates are long gone and even most of the equipment guys have cleared out by the time he emerges. Polamalu goes through a detailed process, including a dip in a cold tub and a lengthy shower to relax after a hard-hitting afternoon. However, for a guy who doesnít seem to be in a hurry to leave, Polamalu does put a serious priority on his time away from the field with his wife, Theodora, the sister of Polamaluís former USC teammate Alex Holmes.Polamalu took some after Sundayís win over the San Francisco 49ers to engage in a O&A with Yahoo! Sports.

 Cole: Do you have a routine you follow on your day off?

Polamalu: We work out together because thatís our only day off together. Itís a pretty decent workout. She does a lot of running and I do a lot of stretching. Tuesday is also our only opportunity to go to church together, so we do that.

Cole: When and where do you go?

Polamalu: It starts at 8:30 (a.m.). Ö Itís the Nativity of the Theotokos monastery (in Saxonburg, Pa.).

Cole: I know youíre devoutly Christian (Polamalu has a carefully arranged series of religious items in his locker at Heinz Field), but exactly which denomination?

Polamalu: Greek Orthodox. Theotokos literally means the Mother of God.

Cole: How long are you in services?

Polamalu: They usually go to about 12:30.

Cole: Thatís a four-hour service. Is that a normal service?

Polamalu: Pretty much, especially at a monastery.

Cole: Can you describe it?

Polamalu: Whatís really neat about the Orthodox church is that itís like walking back in time 2,000 years to the time of the Apostles, when they created these services. You walk into that and itís really like Ö living it. They have maintained the truth ever since the beginning.

Cole: Youíre Polynesian. How did you end up at a Greek Orthodox church?

Polamalu: There are different ethnicities, like Russian Orthodox. My wife is Greek. I was a non-denomination Christian before we got married. So we sit around there and meet with our spiritual mother and then we go home, maybe take a nap, work out and then go home and have dinner.

Cole: Whoís making dinner?

Polamalu: My wife; I cannot cook at all. Iíve tried. Iím terrible. When I cook, itís something nobody else would enjoy.

Cole: You only cook specialty things for yourself?

Polamalu: No, itís not that nobody else will make it for me, itís that Iím the only one who is going to enjoy it. Iíll look at the other people and say, ďDid you like it?Ē They say, ďNoooooooo.Ē

Cole: Do you have any other hobbies or things you do away from the field? Maybe bowling?

Polamalu: No, not really. The single guys go bowl. The guys who are married go home, mostly. I really focus on spending time with my wife.

Cole: How hard is it to get time at home during the season? I know guys like (Miami Dolphins linebacker) Zach Thomas stay at the facility until very late studying film and (Indianapolis Colts quarterback) Peyton Manning is watching film at home.

Polamalu: First of all, Iím a Christian so my prayer life really comes first. Second of all, Iím a husband so my wife comes before anything else. If I have time to do anything else after that, I do it, but I donít sacrifice any time with her.

Cole: A lot of guys do it the other way around. Football comes first. They say family and faith come first, but they really do the football first. How do you reconcile it?

Polamalu: Itís really easy for me. I love my faith and I know thatís first. Ö. I really think I know whatís important in my life and thatís my faith and my wife.

Cole: So football is a really focused activity. Thereís no wasted time, right?

Polamalu: Actually, itís a lot of fun and itís something I enjoy. Itís not like when Iím here itís business time and then thereís family time. Football is, for me, itís something I do. Itís like for you, youíre a reporter. Itís what you do, not who you are. Football does not define me. How I am with my faith and how I treat my wife is what truly defines you as a man. That is my goal in life to live that way and believe in it. It would be cowardly of me to say that I enjoy my time with my faith and my wife if I really didnít spend that time with them.

Cole: How long have you been married?

Polamalu: Two years now.

Cole: Kids?

Polamalu: God willing, someday. But three dogs counts for one kid, I think.

Cole: Um, no.

Polamalu: Three English bulldogs count for one kid.

Cole: No.


Cole: I have two kids. No.

Polamalu: Come on, it has to count for one kid.

Cole: I respect and admire your beliefs and your stands on many things, but Iím not buying the three dogs-to-one kid ratio.

Polamalu: OK, you win this one.

Cole: Wait till you have a child waking up at 3 a.m., hungry and then heís got colic and heís screaming and you have no idea why.

Polamalu: (laughing) Yeah, itís probably like, ďTalk to me, tell me whatís wrong. Oh, thatís right, you canít talk to me.Ē Yeah, with the dogs itís if they pee in the house you say, ďGo to the kennel.Ē


Jason Cole is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports.



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