Troy Polamalu: Players have cause

LOS ANGELES -- Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu doesn't know when the NFL lockout will end, but he does believe the players are representing the everyday person in their battle against the NFL.

"It's unfortunate right now. I think what the players are fighting for is something bigger," Polamalu said Sunday night. "A lot of people think it's millionaires versus billionaires and that's the huge argument. The fact is its people fighting against big business. The big business argument is 'I got the money and I got the power therefore I can tell you what to do.' That's life everywhere. I think this is a time when the football players are standing up and saying, 'No, no, no, the people have the power.'"

Polamalu, who was being honored Sunday at the annual Cedars Sinai Medical Center Sports Spectacular, has stayed productive during the lockout. The two-time Super Bowl champion and 2010 NFL defensive player of the year graduated from USC this month with a bachelor's in history.

"I've always said education is important, but I've never been able to speak about it without any authority," Polamalu said. "I can't tell a kid to go to college and school's the most important thing when I have no authority to speak without a diploma. It's like if I were to speak to anyone about being a father before I had children. Now, I feel very blessed and it's big fulfillment for myself. You can spend a lot of your life trying to achieve certain goals, but school is a huge part of that. If you fall short, it's a big disappointment."

The six-time Pro Bowl safety was surprised at how much media attention and recognition he got for an accomplishment he said he should have completed in 2004 before he was drafted by the Steelers in the first round.

"It might have felt better if I had completed it on time, but I didn't complete it on time," he said. "I just finished school. I should have finished school a long time ago. There shouldn't be so much press about me going back and finishing school when it's something I should have done in the first place."

Polamalu, who plans on using his degree to become a teacher after he retires from football, said he was on track to graduate on time eight years ago before he began training for the NFL draft.

"I had a full semester of units left my senior year while I was training for the combine," he said. "I dropped one class and then I dropped another class and I just said I can't do this. But thanks to the NFL owners and [NFL commissioner] Roger Goodell they've allowed me to finish my degree during this lockout."

Polamalu also believes the NCAA singled out his alma mater for punishment compared to the sanctions levied against other schools such as Ohio State.
"The circumstances are tough to overcome. I think they are very unfair," Polamalu said. "I think if the [NCAA] just had guidelines that said this is your punishment for this and that and it was a universal way of looking at that that would be one thing, but they just pick and choose who they want to punish more than others, and I think that has been well documented."

Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.