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Raiders report: Rookie safety’s journey comes full circle

The football journey of undrafted rookie safety Isaiah Pola-Mao came full circle when he made the Raiders’ roster out of training camp.

“My very first football team was the Eastside Mesa Raiders down in Arizona,” Pola-Mao said Tuesday. “It’s kind of funny. I guess that’s just how life works.”

Now he is wearing the Silver and Black in the NFL and preparing for his first game Sunday at the Los Angeles Chargers, just down the road from where he played collegiately for four years at Southern California.

Pola-Mao expects a substantial group of friends and family to be in attendance, along with a great uncle who will be on the sidelines with him. His great uncle Kennedy Polamalu is the Raiders’ running backs coach.

“He kind of sticks to the offense and I’m on defense, but every day he just kind of reminds me to do all the little things and the extra stuff,” Pola-Mao said.

It’s the way he made the roster. Though he was viewed as a long shot to make the team despite his stellar collegiate career, he continued to put good reps on film and eventually earned the trust of the coaching staff.

“Deep down in my heart, I always knew I belonged here,” he said. “But we play a dog-eat-dog game, so you just have to keep coming in and clocking in every day and go to work.”

That doesn’t stop now that he has succeeded in the first step of his NFL journey.

“Every day you have to clock in again,” he said. “It’s that mentality that you have to come in with because someone is trying to get rid of you and take your spot all the time, so you have to prove yourself over and over, again and again, every day.”

Still, he did take a moment to savor the news when the initial roster was announced last week. Pola-Mao called his grandparents and parents, including his father, Tracey, a former San Diego State and Arena Football League player.

“It was kind of a stressful day just coming into the building and not knowing what your future is going to look like,” he said. “But kind of just kept a positive attitude and tried to do my job.”

Depth chart updated

Jermaine Eluemunor was listed as the starting right tackle on the unofficial depth chart, updated on the team website Tuesday.

John Simpson was listed at left guard with Lester Cotton Sr. at right guard. While the chart isn’t necessarily indicative of who will take the field Sunday, it could provide a glimpse into the current thought process of the coaching staff.

Andrew Billings and Bilal Nichols are listed as the starting defensive tackles, and Ameer Abdullah is the first-team kick returner.


The Raiders added two veterans to the practice squad who were with the organization throughout the preseason.

Wide receiver Keelan Cole and offensive lineman Alex Bars were back in the building and practiced with the team Tuesday.

Coach Josh McDaniels said last week the updated practice squad rules would give the team added depth by having players who could be called up to the active roster up to three times without subjecting them to waivers.

Cole and Bars are prime examples of players who could potentially contribute immediately if needed.

In corresponding moves, defensive end Zach VanValkenburg was released from the practice squad, and offensive lineman Vitaliy Gurman was placed on the practice squad injured list.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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