Professional photographer, Vincent Pugliese, shares his love of sports, one picture and one memory at a time.
Editors Note: Vincent Pugliese has spent the past 20 years traveling the country taking sports photographs for a living. Each picture tells a story. Each picture stores a memory. Each a window into sport, and how we connect to it. In ‘Beyond the Lens,’ Good Men Project Sports selects one photograph and tells the story behind the shot.
With longtime Steelers safety, Troy Polamalu announcing his retirement last week, Vincent reached back into the archives for a some gems in which Polamalu, the Dad, shines through . . . .
July, 26, 2012, STEELERS TRAINING CAMP, LATROBE, PA: Troy and His Boys
I awoke this raining morning all set to post my story from Opening Day in Cincinnati. That was until I just read that Pittsburgh Steelers great Troy Polamalu announced last night that he was retiring from the NFL.
I’ve had the unique pleasure to be able to photograph Polamalu in varying aspects throughout his career. From his struggles during his rookie season, to him walking off the field holding his son after winning the Super Bowl in Tampa, to one of his kamikaze line of scrimmage leaps in Cleveland, to the interception that wasn’t in Indianapolis during the 2006 playoffs, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to make images of such a rare, remarkable athlete.
But if you hear him speak, the last profession you would imagine him being a part of would be the rough and nasty game of professional football. His soft, quiet and thoughtful voice is the antithesis of what you might expect to hear from the long haired wild man on the gridiron.
Polamalu is one of the few athletes I could hear being interviewed and feel like I am in study and not a locker room. He spoke of his family. His thoughts were deep and insightful. I was surprised and impressed when I heard that he never watched football on television.
But personally, the most memorable moment I got to be a part of was at Steelers training camp in Latrobe around four years ago.
As the grueling, sun soaked practice started to wind down, I noticed two little boys and their mother to the side of one of the practice fields eating sandwiches and fruit from a bag lunch. It was an adorable scene of what I figured were a few die-hard fans waiting until the end of practice for an autograph.
After I made a few images of the family, I introduced myself and asked for their names. The mother smiled, shared their names and then explained softly that she was Troy’s wife and these were their two boys. I was taken aback, not expecting the family of such a famous athlete to be munching on homemade sandwiches in the hot sun. But they were just watching their dad.
After the brief conversation, I turned back towards the field to see Polamalu continuing to participate in drills. A majority of the team had left the field for the showers as he continued working. Knowing that his family was behind me, I was hoping that I was about to be a witness to a cool family moment for one of Pittsburgh’s brightest stars.
It was obvious that he hadn’t seen his boys yet. He was intensely focused on the job at hand. I kept my lens on Polamalu, no matter what action occurred around the field. There were only a few players left on the field, and the boys sat patiently. It was only a matter of time.
And then it happened, and the scene couldn’t have been more heartwarming. Polamalu caught a glimpse of his family. His smile grew bigger than that night where he held the Lombardi Trophy. He stretched his arms out in the most loving way as the boys rushed towards their dad. Scooping his son Ephraim into his arms, Polamalu greeted him with a giant kiss and a tickle for his belly. His older son Paisos couldn’t resist putting on his dads helmet.
The beautiful family walked off of the field together as I headed the opposite direction with a big smile on my face.
Steeler fans will remember Polamalu for his hair, his passion and his relentlessness on the football field. They will remember the interception he returned in the AFC Championship Game that cliched a Super Bowl berth or the highlight reel of spectacular interceptions or hits that he levied on his opponents.
But when I remember Polamalu as a Pittsburgh Steeler, the first memory will always be of that moment with him and his boys on that field in Latrobe. As a father of three boys, that moment meant more to me than any play he could have made during a football game.
Thanks for the memories, Troy. Enjoy your family!
Photo Credit: Author
This post originally appeared on the Into The Uncommon Blog.