How Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famers Troy Polamalu and Bill Cowher formed lasting bond

PITTSBURGH -- Troy Polamalu and the coach who assisted him in answering the call more than 6600 days ago, will now enter the next stage of their storied careers.Bill Cowher and Polamalu, former Steelers players, will be inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday night (6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) in Canton Ohio. This is the first time that a player and his coach have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.Cowher laughed as he drafted Polamalu, joking that he wouldn't have taken my call because Polamalu didn't like 412 area codes."It's attached weather," Polamalu laughed. "Snow in April? You know all the good stuff. It was not something I was excited about. It became my home, and I was able to share it with my family."The coaching relationship began at 21 years old. It has since evolved into a friendship that is what makes the dual induction so special."He helped me develop and helped me as a person and a father figure in my life," Polamalu stated. To have that confidence instilled into you by a Hall of Fame coach. He is also from Pittsburgh and really embodies the blue collar mentality. It was a privilege to have this kind of influence in my career.However, their bond was not instantaneous. Polamalu was not able to perform well in his first season of 2003. Cowher attempted to place his first-rounder into a variety roles and then tried to force him into a narrowly defined role. Polamalu was not able to finish the season with an interception or a win, and his confidence was low."That rookie season for myself was also when my purpose and if football was right for me was in question," Polamalu stated. "So, post-rookie season was when I had a conversation with myself. It was like, "Listen man. Either you're going all in or all out on this because if your not all-in, it may not be a career."This was a turning point in his relationship with Cowher as well as his career.Art Rooney II, Steelers owner and team president, said that Troy needed time to adjust and grow to the league. Bill was a great help. It's part and parcel of their relationship, I know Troy appreciates it."Troy Polamalu and Bill Cowher were only five years apart on the Steelers, but they remained close friends and entered the Hall of Fame together. AP Photo/David ZalubowskiThey were still together for three more years but Polamalu & Cowher discovered a rhythm that maximized Polamalu’s abilities and brought them closer."As painful as it was, if that molding, of being put through that furnace of adversity, doubt, and really attacking that in a calculated, methodical way, that was not what I did, it would have been like: I've got the right approach and that paying off. It was a turning point in my career.In 2004, Polamalu was awarded the starting strong safety position over Mike Logan. He exploded for five interceptions as well as 97 combined tackles. Cowher and LeBeau discovered the perfect balance of discipline and freedom to allow Polamalu the ability to use his natural talents.Cowher stated, "I recall the more you got Troy to know him, the reason he did the things he did." "... Troy was on the football field and you didn't want him to be harnessed. He was free to play. I was always uncomfortable when he became uneasy. We gave him plenty of room, which is why he's in the Hall of Fame. He's a very special player. He is a very special person."After a record 15-1 2004 season, Polamalu led the Steelers to their fifth Super Bowl in 2005. His flowing locks that spilled from underneath his helmet became his trademark and he was a hard-working, ball-hawking predator.Cowher resigned as a player in 2007. Polamalu built his Hall of Fame resume by winning another Super Bowl in 2008 and making seemingly impossible plays, such as the flying superman tackle of Titans quarterback Kerry Collins. Polamalu now calls this taking a calculated risk.Peyton Manning, a former quarterback for the Broncos and Colts, said that Polamalu had "unbelievable instincts". You are expected to do one thing by defensive coaches. This is how the defense is designed. Troy was a different story. He could see that the ball was going over there, even though he was supposed be here. He ends up over there, and I'm like "No, he's supposed to not be there."From a difficult start to a player who redefined safety, Polamalu will be inducted into the Hall of Fame Saturday as a member of the Centennial Class along with Cowher. This weekend will also include the inductions of three additional Steelers, Bill Nunn, Donnie Shell, and Alan Faneca."It helps me define my career," Polamalu stated about the induction. "I have been surrounded with a lot of Hall of Fame individuals in my life, obviously being drafted from a Hall of Fame coach. It's a sign of my career that I have played with two Hall of Fame players. That has been a great blessing.