49ers can’t overlook Talanoa Hufanga comparison to Troy Polamalu

Safety Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Safety Troy Polamalu #43 of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /

49ers fans have been witnessing it a lot this season, as second-year safety Talanoa Hufanga has budded into a Troy Polamalu-type of player.

Heading into the 2022 season, it might have been something of a small laugh to point out how San Francisco 49ers second-year safety Talanoa Hufanga was the second coming of Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame legend Troy Polamalu.

If for nothing else than the amazing locks of long hair that should prompt Hufanga to join Polamalu in hair-care commercials.

Of course, both players are from Oregon, both attended USC, and both play the same position at the NFL level.

For Hufanga to continue that reputation, beyond the frequently stated fact he trains with Polamalu during the offseason, the Niners’ second-year pro would have to display Polamalu-like abilities on the field.

Through four games in 2022, it’s sure looking as if Hufanga is doing just that.

49ers DB Talanoa Hufanga is making plays in the mold of Troy Polamalu

Neither Hufanga nor Polamalu were graced with elite-level athleticism, although Polamalu rode his collegiate accolades to a first-round NFL Draft pick way back in 2003, whereas Hufanga was a 2021 fifth-round selection.

However, it was the playmaking ability, the anticipation and the sheer knack for being in the right place at the right time that made Polamalu stand out.

Those skills are making Hufanga stand out, too, such as his NFL Way to Play award-winning play from Week 3 against the Denver Broncos:

Entering Week 4, of the 20 players who had at least four tackles for a loss, Hufanga was the only defensive back.

Then, in Week 4 against the Los Angeles Rams, Hufanga iced the game with a pick-six interception off LA quarterback Matthew Stafford, and it’s hard not to recall Polamalu’s anticipation and route-biting abilities when watching the standout replay:

Granted, Hufanga has a long, long, long way to go before coming close to the accolades Polamalu put up over his legendary 12-year career.

But Hufanga has to start somewhere, and it’s off to a strong one.

It’s impossible for 49ers not to compare Talanoa Hufanga to Troy Polamalu

While those comparisons prior to the regular season may have been a bit premature, they certainly don’t look so right now.

Three notable defensive backs have now compared Hufanga to Polamalu, as NBC Sports Bay Area pointed out. Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, another USC alumnus, had no issues comparing the two, while both Charles Woodson and Richard Sherman weighed in on how similar the two look on the field:

“Being around guys like that and hearing that from people is an honor, but I would never want to take that away from a great legend like Troy,” Hufanga told NBC Sports Bay Area’s Donte Whitner. “I’m very blessed just to be able to train with him and I think he’s one of the best to ever do it.”

On the field currently, Hufanga’s teammate at safety, Tashaun Gipson, also explained to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Jennifer Lee Chan why those comparisons are warranted:

"You can’t help but see it jump off the tape. That’s the first thing you notice. [Hufanga] plays with his hair on fire. He has no fear. That is one of those things about Polamalu that every young safety looked up to. He played with his hair on fire."

Personal note, from someone who is bald, please don’t let Hufanga play with his hair on fire. 

Related Story: Talanoa Hufanga a budding bright spot in 49ers elite defense

The early comparisons have certainly been fun to watch, although it’s important to point out how only four games have passed during Hufanga’s name-making season.

However, he’s certainly trending in the right direction, and the fact so many are now looking at him as a potential second-coming player in the mold of Polamalu is awfully special.

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