After the Pittsburgh Steelers traded up to draft safety Shamarko Thomas in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Syracuse product appeared to be destined to take over for veteran safety Troy Polamalu after his playing days came to an end. While he’s only managed to play 195 defensive snaps so far during his first two seasons in the league, Thomas is now finally poised to fill the big shoes that the recently retired Polamalu’s has vacated and he relishes the opportunity to do just that.
“I have been waiting three years for this opportunity,” Thomas told Teresa Varley of steelers.com after Wednesdays OTA practice. “I am going to seize every moment and come out here and work hard with my teammates and just develop myself as a player.”
It’s got to be tough being the one that has to succeed Polamalu and Thomas knows better than to think he will be able to do some of the things that his mentor did on the football field.
“I know I will never be Troy. He is a different beast,” Thomas said. “That is why he is going to be a Hall of Famer one day. I am just trying to be me and create my own legacy.”
Of the 195 defensive snaps that Thomas has played on defense since he was drafted, 193 of them came during his rookie season. He probably would’ve seen the field more on defense last year had he not been battling hamstring injuries during the first half of the season. Additionally, an ankle injury suffered during his rookie season led to Thomas never playing another defensive snap after he went down in Week 10. In other words, Thomas has to stay healthy this year or else he’s sure to be labeled as being injury-prone.
Thomas had the luxury of being personally groomed by Polamalu and you can easily see that when you listen to him talk.
“I learned a lot from him, how to be a Godly man, a family man, everything you want to be in life,” Thomas said of Polamalu.
We still have a long wait until we find out if indeed Thomas will be the starter opposite Mike Mitchell to open the season, if he doesn’t succeed at doing just that it probably won’t be because he didn’t give it everything he has and more.
“I learned from a young age you have to work hard. I love the game. I dedicate myself,” he said.
If you know anything about Thomas’ upbringing, you know by now that he’s certainly a player you can’t help but to root for. He’s overcome a lot during his short time on this earth and there’s no reason to think that he won’t overcome any obstacles that await him this season, which we all hope begins with him being announced as an opening day starter.
Make sure to check out the full interview with Thomas right here.