Whether or not Tommy Polley ends tomorrow with a Super Bowl championship ring on his finger, his mother Amy is still going to get a brand-new home in Perry Hall.
That was the promise Tommy, a rookie linebacker with the St. Louis Rams, made to her long ago. He was going to get to the NFL someday, and when he did, he was going to get her out of her ever more dangerous East Baltimore neighborhood where he lived as a teen-ager.
When Tommy emerged last year as a bona fide star on the mighty Florida State Seminoles, it became apparent that not only was he going to make it to the NFL as promised but he also was going to get there as a high draft choice. So one day he told Amy, who raised him as a single mother, that it was time for her to start looking for that new home.
She didn't find it. She's building it. Construction on her four-bedroom, two-story home should be done in the spring.
Amy grew up an Army brat and always had lived either on a military base or in the countryside. That's why Perry Hall excited her. "When I come down my new road," she said, "I see cattle."
Amy was calling yesterday from Houston, where two of her sisters live. In just a few hours, those three plus Amy's other two sons, 19-year old Antoine and 16-year old Dwayne Whittington, were going to climb into a car and head for the Super Bowl in New Orleans. There, the Tommy Polley fan club was to grow with the addition of other friends and family members, including his grandparents and his son Tyler.
That bodes well for the Rams, for whom Tommy has been a defensive linchpin this year. "I think actually Tommy performs better when he knows that there's family there watching," Amy said.
The Super Bowl is obviously a huge event, but not entirely out ofthe ordinary for Amy. She has seen Tommy, a standout athlete at Dunbar High School, in a Pop Warner championship as well as college bowl and NFL playoff games. She suspects the fun this time will be in watching the reactions of some of her family who have never been to such a glamorous event.
All of them are well aware of how amazing the trip is, if not for Tommy, who, after all, has always been a remarkable athlete, then for Amy, who worked so hard to get to New Orleans. As a 16-year-old student at Aberdeen High School, she gave birth to Tommy. A teen-age mother without a spouse, she not only insisted that she would raise Tommy herself, but that she would finish high school, too.
And, so she did. After that, there was no chance that her children wouldn't do the same. "When it comes to education, I don't play around," she said. "I finished my schooling; there's no way those boys wouldn't finish theirs."
She has worked for 18 years at Johns Hopkins Hospital and is now a clinical data coordinator at the oncology center. She moved the boys from Harford County to Baltimore when Tommy was 11, so she could be closer to work. She enjoyed living in the city on McElderry Street, but in the last five years has seen much that disturbs her outside her windows. "I'm sitting home one day looking outside and say, 'Oh my, there really are drug dealers out there.'"
Tommy managed to stay out of trouble living in that neighborhood. Amy wasn't going to tolerate any foolishness anyway. "I told Tommy, 'If you get in any trouble, we're going to pack up and move back up to the country.' "
He excelled in basketball and football, although he wasn't initially recruited by Florida State where he most wanted to go. So, he sent Coach Bobby Bowden film of his play. Soon, Florida State coaches were knocking on their door.
Four years later, Tommy and his friends gathered in Amy's living room to watch the NFL draft on ESPN. She was in the basement doing laundry when someone yelled downstairs that the Rams had picked Tommy in the second round.
In other words, Amy Polley would be relocating soon.
Like most people, Amy fully expects Tommy's Rams to win tomorrow. But whatever happens, construction will proceed in Perry Hall.