Different NFL players are dealing with the lockout in different ways. While many are taking to different fields to get workouts in, a few are taking the first real offseasons they've had in decades to get a little finishing work done on their personal lives. Pittsburgh Steelers All-World safety Troy Polamalu(notes) is one of them; Polamalu returned to his alma mater of USC and completed his degree in history in time to take part in a ceremony with over 1,000 master's and undergraduate students on Friday.
Polamalu was drafted in 2003 after his senior season, but didn't have time to complete his degree before. The 30-year-old Polamalu posted his thoughts about the event on his website, www.troy43.com:
I'm thrilled to announce that on this cool, sunny Friday morning I donned a cap and gown, walked across the stage in the beautiful Alumni Park at University of Southern California, and was handed my diploma. I'm officially a USC graduate! While I feel excited and fulfilled, that's not really what I want to focus on in this message — I want to talk about the reason behind my decision to go back and finish what I started.
The majority of top picks in the NFL get drafted before they complete their college education. I truly love football and it's such an immense blessing and privilege as an athlete to be given the rare opportunity to use those talents at the highest professional level, but it's certainly not a replacement for an education. So I decided to finish what I started and walked that stage today not only because it was very important to me personally, but because I want to emphasize the importance of education, and that nothing should supersede it.
Polamalu is also sponsoring a Student of the Year program, which those interested in forwarding nominations can do so by following the directions on his website and sending nominations in by Tuesday, May 17.
On a personal note, I got to talk with Polamalu for a few minutes last year at the Nike 7-on-7 football camp in Portland, Oregon, and it's clear that he's one of the good guys. You'd have to go quite a while before you'd find a more centered and together individual in the NFL, and this is just another example of how he gets things done, and why he's been so successful — on the field and off.