One week from now, on February 7, two former USC star defensive players will face off on football’s biggest stage in Super Bowl XLV. In one corner stands Troy Polamalu, the Pittsburgh Steelers game-changing safety, and in the other corner stands Clay Matthews, the tenacious Green Bay Packers linebacker. If you have not had the opportunity to watch Polamalu and Matthews since they left the confines of the LA Coliseum, you have missed out on two of the game’s most exciting players.
Polamalu is already arguably one of the greatest safeties in the history of the NFL. What separates Polamalu from his counterparts are his instincts and his versatility. Polamalu’s knack for finding the ball and making big plays is second to none, although you could argue that Baltimore’s Ed Reed can match Troy’s instincts. If you watch a Steelers game, it is almost inevitable that you see Troy come through in a big moment with a huge play (an interception, a sack, a forced fumble, a stop on fourth down, etc.). Here are just two of countless illustrations of his instincts and ability to rise to the occasion…
In the above clip, the Tennessee Titans tried to hurry to the line of scrimmage and run a quarterback sneak to catch the Steelers off guard. It was late in the game (1:16 left) and a 1st and goal situation. The Titans quarterback thought he could lull the defense to sleep and then employ a quick snap to grab the ball and score. But Polamalu sensed the sneak coming, timed the snap perfectly, and used his athletic ability to leap over the line and smother the quarterback.
In this second clip, Polamalu made the play of the game in what was the game of the season up to that point. The Ravens had a four point lead in a very, very hard fought battle. There was just over three minutes remaining and the Ravens had the chance to either drive for a game-sealing score or burn a lot of clock and make a Steelers comeback implausible. You can see Troy start to creep up to the line of scrimmage–something that he has done so many times in his career–to anticipate the snap. He gets a great jump on the ball and manages to time his leap and tomahawk chop perfectly. Flacco used a three-step drop, so Troy did not have too much time to get to the quarterback. The play jarred the ball loose and eventually led to a Steelers touchdown and subsequent victory. The Steelers offense through the first three quarters could not move the ball, and only a big play like that could get them going and give them the field position needed to score.
As for Clay Matthews, he is also known for his big hits, but what stands out most to me is his relentless and determination to get to the quarterback. Matthews is primarily used as a pass rusher in the Packers defense scheme, and pass rushing is something he does ridiculously well. The following is a video of various plays made by Matthews throughout the first half of this season:
In watching the video, you will notice that Matthews is not only fast but strong. He uses his speed to get around tackles and chase down quarterbacks, but he also is able to bulldoze through linemen using his bull rush to pummel opposing quarterbacks.
Beyond their game play, both guys are famous for their long locks. It is very well known that Polamalu’s hair is insured by one of his corporate sponsors, Head & Shoulders, for $1 million. Polamalu and his hair have been featured in numerous Head & Shoulders commercials that can be seen here, here, and here.
Matthews, meanwhile, not to be outdone, has just inked a one-year deal with Suave, a Unilever brand of shampoo. The terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, but the agreement requires that Matthews make some pre- and post-Super Bowl media appearances and a possible commercial.
Off the field, both Polamalu and Matthews are actively involved in some great causes. Through the Troy & Theodora Polamalu Foundation, Polamalu currently provides relief to many in the American Samoa and provides funding for the Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital. Matthews, on the other hand, has teamed up with CureDuchenne to fight a very unfortunate muscular dystrophy disease in children.
Regardless of which team you want to win next Sunday, it will not be hard to cheer for both Polamalu and Matthews as individuals of the Trojan Family. They have had great careers and do a lot for their communities off the field. They represent the Cardinal & Gold very well. Fight On!
If you have a Twitter account, you can follow them @tpolamalu and @ClayMatthews52