Two years ago, Navy offensive lineman Matt Couch was sitting on a beach, browsing the internet on his smartphone, when he saw the news that the Midshipmen would play at Penn State in 2012, what would be his senior season.
Polamalu played at Pottsgrove High School in Pottstown, Pa.
Couch immediately got excited. And he knew his father would have the same reaction.
Two sons of former Nittany Lions will make their Beaver Stadium debuts this Saturday when Penn State meets Navy at 3:30 p.m. Couch's father, Tom, was an offensive lineman from 1981 to 1984, helping Penn State to its first national championship. Aoatoa Polamalu, the father of current Navy fullback Maika Polamalu, was a starting defensive tackle on the Nittany Lions' 1986 national championship team.
"That was one of the great things growing up -- we were up there a lot of weekends," Couch said. "I have a lot of memories of going up there and seeing a lot of his buddies from the team. We went up for the last one or two of their championship team reunions.
"It makes it that much more special going to play there."
Like Couch, who attended East Pennsboro High School in Enola, Polamalu grew up in Pennsylvania, playing at Pottstown's Pottsgrove High School. He hasn't watched many game tapes of his father's Penn State career but Aoatoa always wears his Fiesta Bowl ring, his son said, and has his Orange Bowl ring displayed on a shelf at home.
Polamalu, a 6-foot, 218-pound sophomore, was in contact with the Nittany Lions early in his high school career but a scholarship offer never materialized. He wound up selecting Navy over Temple. The cousin of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu saw some time on special teams as a freshman and has been working hard to master Navy's triple-option attack.
"It's been rough trying to learn it, especially coming out of an I-formation offense in high school," he said. "It's a very complicated offense. Every person on the field needs to know everyone else's job and trust them to do theirs. You have to trust the guys in front of you to do what they're going to do."
Couch, a 6-foot-3, 280-pound senior who has gotten reserve reps at both offensive guard spots this season, also had an offer to play at West Point. His grandfather and several uncles and cousins had all joined the Army, but Couch liked the success the Midshipmen had been enjoying on the gridiron.
Couch's father, Tom, played at Penn State from 1981-84.
Both players followed what Penn State's program had gone through over the past year with interest, perhaps a little more interest than most of their teammates because of their family ties to Penn State.
"It's disappointing the sanctions that came down, especially for the players," Polamalu said. "I was kind of upset for how strict they were, the players weren't involved in any way."
"The situation was something you ever want to have happen," Couch said. "It was out of (the players') control. The NCAA did what they did. But it was great to see those guys staying there and working, seeing them stick together."
The Midshipmen will get to see the Nittany Lions for themselves on Saturday, and they won't be alone; Couch said he will probably have at least 15-20 friends and family members in the stands.
"It'll be almost like a family reunion," he said.
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