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USC's Kennedy Polamalu is going back to his roots

The Trojans' running backs coach was Kennedy Pola when he played at USC, but he's in the process of adopting his given surname.

August 15, 2011|By Gary Klein
  • USC running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu watches warmups before a game against California last season.
USC running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu watches warmups before a game… (Robert Lachman / Los Angeles…)

USC took Monday off from practice, but players still attended meetings in preparation for their Sept. 3 opener against Minnesota.

That gave USC's running backs coach another chance to quiz and encourage his charges.

"I've finally got the [meeting] room the way I always had it," the coach formerly known as Kennedy Pola said last week.

Much has changed since the former Trojans fullback returned to USC in 2010 for his second stint as an assistant coach.

His name, for one.

It won't be official until all of the legal paperwork he initiated has been processed, but he already is listed as Kennedy Polamalu in the school's 2011 media guide.

"It's something I'd wanted to do for a while," he said of adopting his given surname.

His family shortened the name to Pola after leaving American Samoa for California in the mid-1970s.

Polamalu began the process of legally changing it back while preparing for a return to Samoa in June. He was part of a contingent that included former USC players Rey Maualuga, Deuce Lutui, Malaefou MacKenzie and others who returned to Samoa for a football camp sponsored by his nephew, former Trojans All-American and Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

"It helped my children because when they got to see the family, they're all Polamalus," he said. "When my family got to see where I'm from and how I grew up, it was really cool."

As Pola, he played at USC from 1982 to 1985. He coached as an assistant from 2000 to 2003 before joining the Cleveland Browns' staff in 2004 and then coaching with the Jacksonville Jaguars for five seasons.

He was preparing for his first season with the Tennessee Titans when Trojans Coach Lane Kiffin brought him back to USC. The Titans sued USC and Kiffin, but the NFL team and the school announced in April that they had reached a "mutually satisfying arrangement" to end the lawsuit.

Polamalu was just happy to re-immerse himself in college football.

"I was scrambling at first," he said. "The information that is available [on recruits] is unbelievable now.

"All that you hear, and the YouTube stuff. … They all look good on their highlight reel. But I like to see them in person and see how they prepare and handle themselves."

Polamalu inherited a position group that included several upperclassmen, including seniors Allen Bradford, Stanley Havili and C.J. Gable and junior Marc Tyler.

All but Tyler are gone now, leaving Polamalu with a mostly younger group.

"Guys last year — they didn't know me," he said. "I was trying to teach a foundation they didn't have. Now they know what I expect."

Quick hits

Freshman Andre Heidari is the starting kicker, but the competition at punter continues. Kyle Negrete, a junior walk-on from Fresno, is ahead of freshman Kris Albarado, Kiffin said. … The Trojans resume practice Tuesday. Their final double-day is Wednesday.

gary.klein@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesklein

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