For Catholic pro-football players, faith more than a pre-game prayer
By Gina Mazza Hillier, Michael C. Gabriele and Dave Hrbacek (Catholic News Service)
PITTSBURGH, Pa., Sept. 15, 2006 (www.catholic.org) - Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Troy Polamalu is not an NFL superstar who happens to be a man of faith. Rather, in his heart, he is simply "a Christian with a passion for Jesus."
Football, Polamalu said, "gives me confirmation of how I can carry out my faith. It's my way to glorify God."
And while he views his team's 2006 Super Bowl win as "really beautiful and a blessing," Polamalu notes that "success in football doesn't matter. Success in anything doesn't matter. As Mother Teresa said, God calls us not to be successful but to be faithful. My prayer is that I would glorify God no matter what, and not have success be the definition of it."
"Knowing Troy and how he carries himself, he brings light to the team," offensive lineman Alan Faneca told the Pittsburgh Catholic, the official publication of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. "Everybody respects that."
Polamalu exudes a gentle, humble spirit, said Father David Bonnar, pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in the Pittsburgh suburb of Penn Hills, who has celebrated Mass for 10 years before home games with Steelers players and coaches.
"Since his arrival in Pittsburgh, he has been a permanent fixture at Mass. Even with all of the fame and success, Troy remains committed to the Christian faith," Father Bonnar said. "And if he has changed in any way, he has just become even more humble and spiritual. I have found him to have both the strong contemplative sense of Mary and the fierce active sense of Martha."
Raised in Tenmile, Ore., the youngest of five children, Polamalu attended Catholic grade school and was steeped in the Polynesian culture of reverence for family, church and personal honor.
"I believe that I'm the same person on and off the field. I live my life with a passion and that includes how I play. Obviously, football calls for physical contact, but that's just part of the game," Polamalu said.