SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The San Francisco 49ers’ offense sputtered in an 11-10 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday, but there was a bright spot on the other side of the ball. Safety Talanoa Hufanga continued to turn heads with his impressive play, recording a tackle-for-loss in a third straight game to start the season.
The play came when he bolted past the line of scrimmage to tackle Denver’s Melvin Gordon for a loss. NFL analysts have noticed Hufanga’s “electric” play style, and Hall of Fame safety Charles Woodson compared him to another legendary player at the same position.
“Does polamalu play for the 9ers,” Woodson asked on Twitter. Richard Sherman shared the same observation. Woodson is referring to former Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu, who was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2020.
The similarities between Polamalu and Hufanga are easy to spot. Both players wear flowing, curly hair, and both have a knack for invading the backfield from the safety position.
The similarities don’t stop there. Both players are Oregon natives of Polynesian descent that played their college football at USC. NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth even said during the game that Hufanga trained with Polamalu during the offseason.
Hufanga is in his first season as a full-time starter after he was selected in the 5th round of the NFL Draft in 2021. The training with Polamalu has paid off through three games — he’s tallied 21 tackles, four tackles-for-loss, three passes defended and an interception.
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NFL analysts, former players and 49ers fans have all taken to social media to compliment the 23-year-old. The Athletic’s Robert Mays called him one of the best players in the league. Longtime San Francisco offensive tackle Joe Staley said Hufanga was his new favorite player. Bay Area rapper P-Lo remarked he wanted to buy Hufanga’s jersey.
Hufanga took over as San Francisco’s starting safety for Jaquiski Tartt, who left the team in the offseason after starting at least six games each year since 2015. It’s asking a lot of Hufanga to have a career that even approaches Polamalu’s legendary run, but he certainly looks the part early on.