Thomas: 'I am going to seize every moment'

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Shamarko Thomas looked like he was heading off the field with the rest of his teammates, helmet in hand and walking in the general direction of where the locker room is.

But he stopped, put the helmet down, and looked over and signaled that it would just be a few more minutes until he could come over and talk.

"I just have to run a few gassers," Thomas explained.

A little while later, the helmet was in hand again and Thomas gave a glance back and signaled just a few more minutes.

"I have to go out there," Thomas said, pointing back to the middle of the practice fields where he joined several other teammates who were working catching balls on the jugs machine.

As the last of the players trickled into the locker room, Thomas was still at it, still working. And there is one reason why. Hard work is all he knows.

"Troy (Polamalu) taught me always do extra and have expectations higher than what others have for you," said Thomas. "That is my mentality, come out here and do more and set myself up."

For the last two years Thomas has listened to what Polamalu has told him. The respect he has for him, the close relationship, making him take every bit of advice to heart.

"He was a father figure, a big brother and I even called him uncle," said Thomas. "I learned a lot from him, how to be a Godly man, a family man, everything you want to be in life."

He has watched Polamalu at work, following his lead and learning from his actions. He worked out with him during the 2014 offseason, something that is limited to the chosen few.

And now is the ultimate challenge. Thomas, entering his third season, is the one everyone expects to step in and replace the retired Polamalu in the starting lineup at strong safety.

"He gave me some tips and stuff," said Thomas. "He told me to pray to God, work hard, and everything is going to happen as far as the rest."

Now that the door is open, that starting is within reach, Thomas isn't one to let that door slam shut without giving it everything he has.

"I have been waiting three years for this opportunity," said Thomas. "I am going to seize every moment and come out here and work hard with my teammates and just develop myself as a player.

"It definitely is a tough thing waiting, but God put me in this predicament for a reason and I truly believe that. Learning from him set me right for this day and now. It prepared me, but it was a hard wait."

Thomas said it's different not having Polamalu in the meeting room or on the field any more, and what he and the other safeties need to do is just keep being themselves and not try and be Troy.

"We are trying now to make those plays (he made) and it's harder," said Thomas. "I know I will never be Troy. He is a different beast. That is why he is going to be a Hall of Famer one day. I am just trying to be me and create my own legacy.

The Steelers participate in Day 2 of the 2015 Organized Team Activities at the Steelers practice facility.

"I am just out here working every day. Coach (Mike) Tomlin said the first thing you do is show up, and that is my mentality, show up, work hard, and show my team I am here to work with them. I always enjoy the game and thank God he gave me this blessing. I take no pressure, I just come to play."

When September rolls around, there is nothing more Thomas is hoping for than to be playing with the first-team defense. It's the reason he has been in the weight room at the crack of dawn, why he worked out with Antonio Brown this offseason and why he never likes to take a day off.

"That is why I am out here doing extra. I always work hard," said Thomas. "I have been keeping in my faith and pushing. When I get the opportunity I am going to seize it. My passion, I learned from a young age you have to work hard. I love the game. I dedicate myself.

"It would be a dream come true (to start). I was talking to Will Gay about that yesterday. I told him if I start I don't know what my introduction is going to be. It would definitely be a dream come true. I see other players come out, guys like Le'Veon (Bell) in my (draft) class, and it would be a blessing to come out as a starter."

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