Two years ago, when Shamarko Thomas was just a young rookie trying to make the Steelers' roster, he was designated the nickname "headache" by his older teammates.
This was not just because of his reputation to be a hard-hitting defensive player, but rather because Thomas was always asking questions to the veteran secondary players on the Steelers' roster. It got to the point where Thomas earned respect because he was very willing to learn, but also started to annoy some players such as Ryan Clark because he never stopped pestering them to gain more knowledge of the Steelers' defense.
Thomas recognized that in front of him were two Pro Bowl, Super Bowl champion safeties that made a living in the league and have been part of one of the greatest defenses in the history of the NFL. The player who Thomas might have asked the most of was the living legend, Troy Polamalu, whose career made him one of the greatest safeties to ever play the game.
"I came out here, texted Troy, and he said, 'Stay disciplined, do your job,'" Thomas said. "I told him, 'thank you.'"
Thomas says that he still learns from now retired Polamalu, even during his mistakes this season.
The 2013 fourth round draft pick from Syracuse made a mistake against the Jacksonville Jaguars earlier this preseason that allowed for a touchdown.
The first person he texted about his mistake was none other than his predecessor, Troy Polamalu, according to Jeremy Fowler.
Shamarko knows that no one can completely replace Polamalu's contributions to the Steelers because the two-time Super Bowl champion made a name for himself by making plays that no other player in the NFL could. However, this doesn't stop Thomas from wanting to gain as much wisdom as he can from the retired legend.
"I talk to Troy all the time," Thomas said. "All I do is listen, say 'thank you' at the end for the support. I was like, ‘Troy's right.'"
Troy was right a lot in his twelve year career as a Pittsburgh Steeler, so he might be the best personal advisor for Thomas as he tries to forge his own reputation as a veteran in the NFL.
Shamarko's career has so far been riddled with injuries and involved very few highlights, but improvement is definitely noticeable. His performance against the Green Bay Packers was not spectacular, but he showed some consistency on defense, made nice tackles and even had a solid sack.
The next time Thomas makes a mistake, be sure to expect him to consult one of the franchise's best defenders. That's one of the best resources a young player can use to their benefit.