Steelers' Polamalu to receive YMCA top honor

| Monday, May 28, 2007

Forgive Troy Polamalu if he is a little fidgety Thursday night, if the hard-hitting, soft-spoken safety is anything but comfortable at the Downtown YMCA's 33rd Annual Scholar Athlete Banquet that will celebrate many things, including (gasp!) him.

Polamalu is generally loathe to talk about himself when it comes to anything and that especially includes the work he does off the field -- whether it's making the day of a sick child or starting a foundation to help a group that Polamalu said is too often cast aside by society.

"I don't really feel comfortable taking credit for anything," Polamalu said of his commitment to charity. "To me it's something we're supposed to do."

That sense of duty and what has resulted from it since Polamalu became a Steeler is a major reason why he will be awarded the Downtown YMCA's Person of the Year Award Thursday at the Pittsburgh Hilton.

Past winners of the award, which will be given at the banquet that honors area high school student-athletes, include Dan Rooney, Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, Andy Russell, Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis.

"(Polamalu) really has shown himself to be on of the leaders in Pittsburgh on and off the field," said Ken Horoho, a longtime YMCA board member who chairs the banquet.

If Polamalu is one of the most giving Steelers, he also has his own unique style of doing so, and that's with as little publicity as possible.

Best put, one of the most recognizable Steelers is one of the most stealth Steelers when it comes to doing good deeds.

"Troy is always willing to make a difference in a child's life, though he doesn't seek the spotlight for his actions," Steelers community relations manager Michele Rosenthal said. "He enjoys spending time with a Make-a-Wish child or dropping in for a surprise visit to Children's Hospital and making those he visits feel like they are the most important person in the world."

Indeed, Polamalu does not show up at hospitals just to sign autographs and pose for pictures.

He forges a personal connection with the sick children he visits on a regular basis, which makes their experiences that much more special.

"I could sit there and see 50 kids and literally scribble on a piece of paper and have them be satisfied," Polamalu said. "It would be way more authentic for me to say 'Hey Michael, hey Luke, hey John, how are you guys doing' and really get to know everybody."

Polamalu soon will try to do the same things with veterans of war.

He and his wife, Theodora, are in the process of starting a foundation that will benefit veterans (the issue of their treatment is personal to the Polamalus since three of their grandfathers served in World War II).

In typical Polamalu fashion, his work with the foundation will entail much more than just raising money for it and its beneficiaries.

The three-time Pro Bowler said he plans to spend time with veterans to show them that people care about them, to, as Polamalu said, "give them love."

"The easiest thing to do is to give money, especially when you have a high-paying job," Polamalu said. "I think when you sacrifice time is when you really sacrifice something."

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