Dec. 20, 2010
by Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - According to his mother, his confidante -- the very reason he is even at Washington -- Chris Polk wouldn't want to be anyplace else.
Besides, as the Huskies' two-time 1,000-yard rusher says with a laugh, "This is the season to be jolly, right?"
And to guess.
The 26 days from UW winning the Apple Cup and playing in the Holiday Bowl against Nebraska on Dec. 30 in San Diego provides ample time for speculation. Some speculative talk has been whether Polk would apply for entry in the NFL draft after this season. His medical redshirt year of 2008 makes the sophomore potentially eligible for the pros, because he will have completed three college seasons.
His mother has more wide-ranging goals for her son - and plenty of unfinished business at Washington.
"I've thought about it, yes -- as a possibility," Edrena Polk said of her Chris' entry in the NFL, during a telephone interview from her work as a nurse in Colton, Calif. "But right now we've got to focus on his education. Perhaps after one more year, or two more years.
"He's in a very good position right now."
She wants her son to take academic advantage of having enrolled at UW months early, in January 2008 for winter quarter that academic year, so he could practice that spring with the Huskies. That gave Polk a two-term academic head start on his college classmates.
"He can get his degree and then go begin work on a master's," his mother said. "We're elated with that."
How much sway does Mom have with Chris?
Edrena Polk is the one who went against seemingly all of Southern California - her son's coaches, friends, well-wishers, the USC coaching staff - when she convinced him to back out of a verbal commitment to the Trojans and accept a scholarship from Washington.
"I saw less competition was probably the best thing for Chris," she said. "USC was already on top. We wanted to go to college where we could change and we could give.
"It was a very hard decision. I was against a lot of people. ... My son listened to his mother."
Her son this month also joined Napoleon Kaufman and Greg Lewis as the only Huskies with two 1,000-yard seasons. Chris and his mom still talk on the phone or by e-mail after every game. Edrena Polk, who tackled Chris in one-on-one, full-pads drills from the time he was six until her son finally got past her at age 14, has a video library of all his Huskies games. They critique his performances together.
She was there for Chris through his struggles adjusting academically and being away from home his first year at UW. And mom was there for her son last month, when Polk began doubting himself. The Huskies were 3-6 and Polk was not yet the central part of Washington's offense.
"On our three-game losing streak, I started to second-guess myself, asking `What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong?'" Polk said. "I kept telling myself, `Just stay with it.'"
So, yes, Mom has earned a huge say in Chris' future.
Polk says he hasn't even thought about the NFL yet. He says he is focused on the Holiday Bowl, in which Nebraska will be focused on him.
The Cornhuskers likely are preparing for Polk far more than they did when the teams met in September in Seattle, based on his last three games. He rushed for his career high last month against UCLA. He ran for the winning score on the final play the following week at California. Then he bettered all that by romping for 284 yards, the most by a UW player in 60 years, on Dec. 4 at Washington State.
"I don't know exactly what his ceiling is. I think it's pretty high," Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian said Sunday morning after a sunny Holiday Bowl practice inside Husky Stadium. "Chris has come a long way in two years. And the beauty of it for Chris, in assessing his own game right now, there's still plenty of room to go.
"He's done a lot of great things. But there's a lot left out there to be had for him."
Ask Polk about Sarkisian, and he seems to reveal his true desire on how long he'll be at Washington. Sarkisian was the USC offensive coordinator when the Trojans recruited Polk, then came to UW to be Polk's new coach early last year. Polk called the move "a blessing."
He calls Sarkisian "a genius."
"It just shows that everything happens for a reason," Polk said. "Being able to redshirt gives me all four years under him."
That's four years. Not two.