Maika Polamalu is a football player on the fast track to a Division I future. The Pottsgrove (Pa.) senior doubles as a bruising running back and a run-stopping defensive back and linebacker. None of that is surprising. In fact, given his surname, it might be more surprising if Polamalu wasn't a budding football star.
Still, the muscle-bound 18-year-old isn't as obvious a Polamalu as some might think. Unlike his cousin, hair-so-beautiful-it-needs-an-insurance-policy Steelers uber-presence Troy Polamalu, Maika's hair is more closely cropped. He even sported a slight mohawk at a March combine.
And unlike Troy or his uncle, USC offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu, Maika is unlikely to spend his college career at USC in sunny Southern California. Still, the latest to add to the Polamalu family's long football pedigree is all but guaranteed to spend his next four years playing college football, and he shows every inclination of living up to the family name in the process.
Polamalu is currently burning up Pennsylvania high school fields during his final season. The Falcons are 3-1, responding from their first loss at Boyerton -- the only game in which Polamalu was held to fewer than 100 yards rushing -- with a 21-10 win over Perkiomen Valley on Friday. Polamalu scored seven touchdowns on 460 yards in the Falcons' first four games, numbers which can only increase interest in the two-way starter. The senior currently has scholarship offers from Temple and Navy, but has also received significant interest from Penn State (where his father played for Joe Paterno), Pittsburgh and Michigan State, among other schools.
When the Falcons star isn't on the field, he's probably in a classroom somewhere. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pottsgrove student athlete is taking a full five classes at the Montgomery County Community College branch in Pottstown. Already sporting a cumulative average of 91, Polamalu is likely to face little problem finishing his high school coursework in December so he can enroll in his chosen school in January for the spring semester and preseason practices. While that standardized "grayshirt" path might not be recommended for all student athletes, Pottsgrove's head football coach doesn't foresee any problems for Polamalu.
"He's a tremendous student," Pottsgrove coach Rick Pennypacker told the Inquirer. "He's a tremendous kid, and I can't say enough good things about the kid."
Regardless of where Maika heads next, his NFL cousin will be rooting for him.
"I never felt pressure because I have uncles and cousins that played at pretty elite levels of college," Troy Polamalu told Scott Brown of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It all depends on the parenting. Some parents can put a whole lot of pressure on [their children], and some don't. His parents definitely don't do that."
"It's awesome," the elder Polamalu told Pittsburgh's KDKA-TV. "It is a younger generation of cousins that are starting to come up, so him along with a few other cousins, it's gonna be pretty cool to watch."
Considering the fact that Pittsburgh has recruited the younger Polamalu, it's possible there could be multiple Polamalus keeping an eye on defensive backfields in Heinz Field in the future. Not that there will be any trouble telling the two apart. The hair takes care of that.
"People always ask me why I don't have that kind of hair, and what happened," Maika Polamalu told the Inquirer. "My dad was one of the only few out of his brothers and sisters not to have thick, curly hair. So then, when I'm only half-Samoan, I'm definitely not going to get it."
Luckily for Maika, the hair is a less important familial trait than football aptitude. Though it might only be slightly less valuable, if you ask Head & Shoulders.