'It's like going back home': Former USC standout Isaiah Pola-Mao returns to Los Angeles for first NFL game

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Isaiah Pola-Mao is gearing up to play his first NFL regular-season game in a city that he knows pretty well.

Before the undrafted rookie arrived in Las Vegas, he was a standout defensive back at the University of Southern California – like his uncle Troy Polamalu. As a Trojan, he was a team captain and ended his collegiate career with nearly 180 total tackles, five interceptions and four fumble recoveries.

It's fitting he'll return to the "City of Angels" after using this offseason to punch his ticket onto the Raiders' 53-man roster.

"It's like going back home," said Pola-Mao. "It's definitely nice. It's a blessing to get to back and see my family and some of my old teammates. That's going to be nice."

Pola-Mao described last Tuesday as a "stressful day" waiting to find out if he was going to make the team. After realizing he made the initial roster, he joyfully called his immediate family to let them know the good news. He didn't have to search too far to find one family member in particular, Kennedy Polamalu – his great-uncle and the Raiders' running backs coach.

He said there's been minimal interactions with his uncle in the building, considering they're on opposite sides of the ball. Nevertheless, he's kept his advice to "do the extra stuff" in his ear throughout Training Camp, which propelled his game. He finished the preseason with 10 total tackles, and is primed to be a big part of the special teams unit as as rookie.

Head Coach Josh McDaniels has been clear throughout Training Camp of intentions to utilize his best players, regardless of how they came to be part of the unit. Pola-Mao was one of four undrafted rookies that made the team's initial 53-man roster, the first time any UDFA has made it since 2019. While it's a great early feat in his NFL career, the rookie safety is staying grounded and focusing on the tasks ahead of him.

"I already felt in my heart that I belonged," Pola-Mao said. "And after that, you just have to have that mentality of every day, you have to keep stacking it up. ... We play in a dog-eat-dog world [in] this game. I've just got to keep coming in every day, clocking it in and go to work."

Head inside Intermountain Healthcare Center to view the best photos from the Silver and Black's Wednesday practice.

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