Packers' Perry recalls Polamalu's rocky rookie year

Posted Feb. 03, 2011 @ 9:52 p.m.
Posted By Arthur Arkush

DALLAS — Packers safeties coach Darren Perry has been on both sides of Sunday's upcoming battle between the Steelers and Packers. Perry spent four seasons — 2003-06 — in Pittsburgh coaching the Steelers' secondary. During his time there, Perry had the opportunity to work with Steelers SS Troy Polamalu, now a shining star. Perry recalled during the Steelers' media availability on Thursday morning that Polamalu's rise to stardom was not without obstacles.

"I remember meeting with Troy at 6:30 in the morning his rookie season, watching practice tape when he was on the 'look' team. ... And I said, 'Troy, you can't do this; you got to read the card and do what the card tells you to do because you're trying to show the offense what the opposition is going to be doing, and you're not giving us the look. You're hurting us right now.'

"And I remember being up extra early, watching practice tape of our scout team! Not the opponent's tape, but our scout team, just telling him this is what you got to do. And that was part of the process that has helped him become what he is."

Perry even recalled a point during the 2003 season when some folks in the Steelers' camp were questioning the drafting of Polamalu. It wasn't until a Monday-night game in San Francisco late in the season when it started to click for the talented rookie.

"I remember saying that night, so much was going through his mind and he had all of his hair tucked up in his helmet, and I remember, pregame, I said, 'Troy, let's get out there and have some fun tonight.' And he said, 'Coach, I'm letting my hair down tonight,' and that was the first game where you see him with his hair out of his helmet, and that was the first indication, finally, that he was going to be himself and not try to do too much and overreact.

Although the Steelers would lose that evening, Polamalu, upon Perry's recommendation, was inserted into the starting lineup the following season. Perry was promoted to DB coach, and Polamalu became a Super Bowl champion — and one of the premier defensive players in the NFL.