Practically 20 Years Later, Troy Polamalu’s USC Professional Day Exercise Stays Memorable

It’s well-documented in his Hall of Fame career just how spectacular and athletic former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu was on and off the field.

From the flowing hair out of the back of his helmet, to the highlight-reel plays picking off passes, leaping over the line of scrimmage for tackles for loss and more, Polamalu did it all.

Even with all of his spectacular plays on the field during his time in Pittsburgh, it’s what he did at his Pro Day at USC in 2003 that still stands out to this day for former NFL scout and current Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy. Speaking with ESPN’s Jeff Legwold for a piece Thursday, Nagy recalled the time Polamalu disappeared into the ceiling in USC’s weight room in 2003 during his vertical jump testing.

Let Nagy tell the story.

“He runs in the 4.3s,” Nagy said to Legwold for “But what I remember most is the old USC facilities were like in the basement. They had to knock out some panels in the ceiling because of where they had the vertical [jump] set up. He jumped like 43½ inches. I just remember you lost like half of his body —  you couldn’t see him from the waist up because he disappeared into the ceiling.”

Sounds like Polamalu literally jumped out of the gym. I’ll see myself out now…

Anyway, that checks out with Polamalu. He was a freak athlete entering the NFL in 2003, and certainly showed enough for the Steelers and then Director of Player Personnel Kevin Colbert to trade up to No. 16 overall to select the USC star. Colbert gave up the No. 27 pick, a third rounder at No. 92 overall, and a sixth-rounder at No. 200 overall to move up 11 spots to grab the future Hall of Famer.

Those picks for Kansas City ended up being running back Larry Johnson and cornerback Julian Battle. The Chiefs later swung a deal with the New York Jets involving pick No. 200 to move, eventually picking at No. 153 where they grabbed offensive tackle Jordan Black.

Seems that the Steelers won that trade rather handedly.

Polamalu went on to finish his career with 783 tackles, 12 sacks, 32 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles, 107 pass deflections and five touchdowns on his way to earning the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, four First Team All-Pros, two Second Team All-Pros, eight Pro Bowl nods, a spot on the 2000s NFL All-Decade team, a spot on the Steelers’ All-Time team and a spot in the Hall of Honor.

That athleticism he showed at his Pro Day was rather prominent during his career as well, making him quite the memorable player for more than a decade, and the only player in the 2003 NFL Draft to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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