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Troy Polamalu says 2003 was his favorite season because of the 'adversity' he faced

(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

During Troy Polamalu's Pro Football Hall of Fame press conference on Wednesday, he was asked what was his best and favorite season, and why. Polamalu's answer was kind of surprising as it wasn't 2005 or 2008 when the Steelers won the Super Bowl, or in 2010 when he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

"Oh wow, I would have to say the first season," Polamalu said. "As humiliating as it was, I would have to say had I not gone through the process of that sort of molding of being put through the furnace of adversity and doubt, and really attacking that in a way that was, to me, calculated, methodical and not in an emotional way that was like 'Yeah, I'm done with this game!' It was, 'I've got to go about doing this the right way.' And that paid off. It actually set in motion the rest of my career, to say, 'Man, this is a template for me to work off of. This chicken breast, broccoli and olive oil diet maybe I can add some other things into there.' But to me, that's what really set the template for how I started to view seasons beyond that."

Earlier during the press conference, Polamalu was asked about that same rookie season and the struggles that he experienced and whether he ever questioned himself.

"For sure. I almost would say my rookie season was similar to my freshman season, and what I'm learning now is that my freshman season is very similar to a lot of football players," Polamalu said. "That rookie season, you go through a lot of doubts. You're obviously away from the college and protection of coaches and college system and you're really (starting) your adventure into adulthood. So that rookie season for me was also where I started to question my purpose, I guess, and whether or not football was for me or not, because my rookie season was not enjoyable, nor was it very successful at all. That post-rookie season is where I kind of had a real conversation with myself. It was like, 'Listen, man, you're going to go all-in on this or all out, because if you're not in on this there may not be a career.' So, for me, that rookie season was extremely humbling, humiliating, but yet much needed in my life, not only as a football player but as a person, as a husband, as a father. I'm appreciative of that adversity."

Polamalu went through an adjustment period during his rookie season with coming from college to the pro level, but things started to click for him in his second year and he was named to the Pro Bowl, which was the first of five straight Pro Bowl nominations. It was also in 2004 when Dick LeBeau was hired as the Steelers defensive coordinator and he had a profound impact on Polamalu's career. Polamalu looked at LeBeau as a father figure. So, it didn't come as a surprise in May when it was announced that Polamalu asked LeBeau to be his Hall of Fame presenter.


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