Religious ‘items’ in a locker

polamalu si coverAnother football weekend, yet another chance to venture into the arena of faith and sports.

For starters, The Washington Post had an interesting story about former Philadelphia Eagle running back Herb Lusk, who is better known for what happened after one of his touchdown runs than for the actual events of his short but sweet National Football League career. Here’s the top of the story:

The play was 48 Toss, and 30 years later, Dick Vermeil remembers it as if he called it last Sunday. Herb Lusk took a pitch from Ron Jaworski, headed around left end, and breezed unscathed 70 yards for a fourth-quarter touchdown. Four steps over the goal line at Giants Stadium, the Philadelphia Eagles’ running back rewrote the playbook. Alone in the end zone, with a crowd of 48,824 looking on, he celebrated with a gesture in what has since become a watershed moment in American sports.

With little ceremony and no advance warning, Lusk kept his eyes straight, dropped to his left knee, and bowed his head in prayer. A few seconds later, he stood back up and returned to the sideline, his legacy sealed.

It was, according to the experts at NFL Films, the first end-zone prayer, and it opened up an arena of public speech and symbolic actions that remains alive and well and controversial to this day.

But the story that fascinated me, for obvious reasons, came early in the week — care of Jasan Cole at Yahoo! Sports. This was a simple Q&A about Pittsburgh strong safety Troy Polamalu, who is, perhaps, best known for the awesome mane of hair that flows out from under his Steelers helmet.

But it seems that Polamalu is also a Christian believer, and Cole not only allows this subject some space in his interview, but gets into some interesting details. Cole just keeps asking questions and printing the details of the answers.

Still, I had to smile at the reporter’s reference to Polamalu having a “carefully arranged series of religious items in his locker at Heinz Field.”

Religious items? What might those be?

See if you can fill in the gaps based on this section of the interview proper, which centers on the fact that Tuesday is on the only day in the week when Polamalu and his wife have the time to go to church.

300px FedorovskayaWhy is that? Does their church have extra long services, or what?

Polamalu: … Tuesday is also our only opportunity to go to church together, so we do that.

Cole: When and where do you go?

Polamalu: It starts at 8:30 (a.m.). … It’s the Nativity of the Theotokos monastery (in Saxonburg, Pa.).

Cole: I know you’re devoutly Christian … but exactly which denomination?

Polamalu: Greek Orthodox. Theotokos literally means the Mother of God.

Cole: How long are you in services?

Polamalu: They usually go to about 12:30.

Cole: That’s a four-hour service. Is that a normal service?

Polamalu: Pretty much, especially at a monastery.

Cole: Can you describe it?

Polamalu: What’s really neat about the Orthodox church is that it’s like walking back in time 2,000 years to the time of the Apostles, when they created these services. You walk into that and it’s really like … living it. They have maintained the truth ever since the beginning.

And so forth and so on.

So, since he is an Eastern Orthodox believer, what do you think those “items” were in his locker? Might they have been icons? You think?

Print Friendly

About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Pingback: DYSPEPSIA GENERATION » Blog Archive » Religious “items” in a locker

  • David Rupert

    This blog post, Is God on my team, asks some of the questions.
    It’s found here:


    Its interesting…. we should be both vocal and visible at our places of employment. But where do we cross the line

  • cheryl

    I always thought he was Catholic. The Steelers summer training camp is at St. Vincent College near Pittsburgh and in feature articles he has mentioned that he is a regular Mass attendee there during summer training.

    Also, for what it’s worth, there is a new age tabloid here in Pittsburgh that put him on the cover, which was amusing.

  • Mattk

    At least, one icon. Probably, more. Also, holy water and some oil from the lamp buring in front of the relics of a saint. No likely to have any relics, though.

  • shocked

    A Samoan Orthodox. Interesting.

  • Mattk

    We are everywhere. (que Vincent Price voice) Bwu-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha

  • Irenaeus

    I also thought he was Catholic…?

  • franksta

    With that cover pic, I would have thought he was praying to Kahless in Sto-Vo-Kor.

  • Jeff

    Nope. He was some form of non-denominational Christian before he met his wife, Theodora, who is Greek (or part Greek).

    Nativity of the Theotokos is a Greek Orthodox Monastery for sure, and Troy stopped in at St. Anthony’s in Arizona (also Greek Orthodox) before the game yesterday.

  • kbh

    Only reason I knew that Polamalu was Orthodox was because a priest who I heard speak two weeks ago was introduced as, among other things, being the one who chrismated Troy Polamalu.

  • Mike

    Accoriding to this story:

    he was Catholic at one point.

  • Tom Mc

    I was brought up Roman Catholic and was taught by nuns for six years. Then I moved on to public school and college with a real edge in math, spelling and sentence structure. ;) While in High School I met my future wife and learned all about her Russian Orthodox faith. Now married for almost 32 years, I continue to be touched emotionally and spiritually at every Sunday morning service, and especially at Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter services. If you have never been to those services or an Orthodox wedding, then you haven’t lived. Troy Polamalu described Orthodoxy perfectly when he stated that it is like going back in time two thousand years to the Church of the Apostles.

  • http://none Eleanor Kinan

    Polamalu is (Greek)Orthodox and also Catholic. If he were Roman Catholic, he would belong to the Church in Rome, overseen by the Pope. Since he is Orthodox (meaning Rightly Believing) and Catholic (meaning Universal), he is an Orthodox Catholic, just like every other Orthodox person in the world. The Church he attends happens to be Greek, under the Greek Patriarchate and every Orthodox person belongs to their unique See, ie, Antiochian Orthodox is headed by the Patriarchate (or See) of Antioch, etc. There are 12 Patriarchs who each head a See (Russia, The Ukraine, etc., etc., etc), …..and it is very true that going into an Orthodox Church is like stepping into history, a history of beauty!
    Check out the Great Schism and you will see that all the Churches out there started off as one Universal Church, the Orthodox Church!