The most famous hair in American football is now flecked with more than a few strands of grey, and Troy Polamalu knows it.
Entering his 10th season, the perennial All-Pro Pittsburgh Steelers safety talks openly about being closer to the end of his Hall-of-Fame career than the beginning. He repeats the phrase "I'm trying to just take each day as it comes".
It is almost as if it is on a loop.
The thoughtful 31 year old has always been about more than football - at one point during Organised Team Activities he and free-agent safety Myron Rolle engaged in a spirited talk about overpopulation - yet he understands he is at the point in his career where he needs to start thinking about those who will be around long after he is gone.
It is why he broke from tradition and showed up at OTAs this spring rather than work out in California. It is why he spent time at wide receiver - yes, wide receiver - during a drill earlier this week to give rookie defensive backs some insight into how things will look in tomorrow night's preseason home opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
"He could be back sitting on a water cooler hamming it up, but he's not," secondary coach Carnell Lake said. "He's adding his input, 'This is what I see. You might want to see this or that'."
There have been few players in NFL history who have done it quite like Polamalu, whose combination of athleticism and instincts have made him one of the best players of his generation.
The Steelers have relied on his playmaking to make them a perennial Super Bowl contender.
Now they are relying just as heavily on his leadership after a mass exodus in the off-season left Polamalu as one of the most experienced players in a locker room in the midst of a transformation with several senior players, such as Hines Ward, having left in the off-season.
Suddenly, the guy who still vividly remembers being the anxious rookie in 2003 is one of the oldest guys in the huddle. And he knows it is time to start acting like it, both in deed and in words.
Leading by example has never been an issue for Polamalu. Now, however, he knows his words and his off-the-field habits are just as important. It is one of the reasons he travelled cross-country for three weeks of OTAs, sacrificing valuable time with his family during the off-season so he could help the newcomers get a feel of what is required at a place that lives by the motto "the standard is the standard".
While he looks a little bulkier than normal, Polamalu joked it is just his stomach. When asked if he is starting to feel like a guy who has spent a decade playing with a ferocity few in league history have matched, he just laughed.
"You complain about being 31, but at 29 I was complaining about being 29," Polamalu said. "At 27 I was complaining about being 27.
"You just kind deal with the soreness as it comes."
There is none at the moment, but it will come. Polamalu dealt with a concussion last year - not the first of his career - and as much as he loves the game he has talked repeatedly about how he does not plan to play until his body does not let him anymore.
He signed a contract extension last September that will keep him in Pittsburgh until 2014.
After that, who knows? Add it to the list of reasons he is embracing the role of mentor.
"He's always been a Steeler first and Troy Polamalu second,"said Dick LeBeau, the Steelers defensive backs coach.
"He's always able to keep the team perspective in view in spite of his greatness."
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