What Washington's Starting Running Back Chris Polk Had To Do To Get Here

Elliott DuncanContributor IMarch 10, 2009

When I was a freshman at Redlands East Valley, I remember watching running back Chris Polk break nine, yes count them, nine tackles.

It was at that point I knew that Coach Kurt Bruich had a great player on his hands. That freshman team went 10-0, and Chris moved right up to the Varsity squad after that.

He made the switch from running back to slot back, where he lined up at receiver and at running back numerous times throughout the game.

Chris ran the ball 74 times that season and picked up 446 yards and 4 touchdowns, while having a six YPC average. Chris also caught the ball 64 times for 764 yards and 6 touchdowns. As a sophomore, Polk was being heavily recruited by the University of Southern California.

As a junior, Chris burst into the offense (and even defense this season) by scoring 23 touchdowns, 11 on the ground and 12 through the air. He rushed 62 times for 384 yards, and had 62 receptions for 1167 yards. By the end of the season, Chris was had a solid verbal commitment to USC.

By the 2008 season, Polk was one of the highest recruits in Southern California. Kurt Bruich, Redlands East Valley’s head coach, talked to Chris and ultimately made the decision to move Chris primarily to running back for the 2008 season where he would get the ball a lot more.

There was a lot of hype before the 2008 season, and many polls around California had Redlands East Valley ranked in the top 10. Chris Polk and the 2008 varsity team did not let them down, leading them to a 12-1 record and the Citrus Belt League Championship.

Coach Bruich focused the game plan strictly on Chris, saying that he would be stupid not to give Chris the ball. And that is exactly what he did. Chris ran the ball 234 times for an amazing 2561 yards and 29 touchdowns.

If you do the math, that is a whopping 10.94 YPC. He also caught the ball 18 times for 314 yards and 5 touchdowns.       

Chris propelled himself to one of the top all purpose backs in the country, and was in high demand.

Although still a USC commit, he was still taking official visits around the country, and had offers from UCLA, Washington, UTEP and Oregon. Ultimately, Chris turned down USC and took the scholarship from Washington, where he was guaranteed immediate playing time as a true freshman.

There were three other factors that helped Polk choose Washington, however:

1) His cousin Jordan Polk was also recruited to play wide receiver.

2) Former REV starting QB Ronnie Fouch was backing up Jake Locker.

3) Former REV defensive back Marquise Persely accepted a scholarship.


Chris began drawing comparisons to former USC running back Reggie Bush back in his sophomore year from Pete Carroll himself. Landing Polk was a huge uplift to the University of Washington, and surprised many people.

He graduated high school early, and was enrolled at UW by the winter semester. By his second week there he was running and working out at the team facilities.  

Spring ball came and Chris had a good time toying with Washington’s defense, working primarily as a wide receiver. Through the spring and summer practices however, UW’s staff made the decision to move Chris to running back.

UW’s first game came against their arch rival: Oregon. Chris Polk started the game at running back, but was not very productive. He carried the ball 14 times for only 19 yards, averaging 1.7 YPC. UW lost to Oregon 44-10; it was a very bleak start to the season.

The second game came against BYU. Chris ran the ball six times for 14 yards, averaging a slightly better 2.4 YPC. He also caught one reception, but did not gain any yards. Chris received a handoff in the second quarter against BYU and was met in the backfield.

He tried to stiff arm the tackler, and his shoulder was dislocated. Polk sat out the rest of the game. Later that night, there were whispers on the Washington radio stations that Polk was out for the remainder of the season.

Chris confirmed his dislocated shoulder the next day to me, and said that there was a good chance he could be out for the reset of the season. Coach Willingham confirmed it a few days later. Chris had season ending surgery on Sept. 29, and applied for a medical redshirt.

This was the first big injury Chris has faced since he started playing football as a child. I have spoken with Chris and he has confirmed to me that new UW coach Steve Sarkisian will move him to play receiver. Sarkisian was the USC offensive coordinator and was very interested in Chris while he played at Redlands East Valley.

I expect big things to come out of UW’s new coaching staff, and how they handle the dynamic Chris Polk. Though he runs a 4.44 40 yard dash, Chris prefers to initiate contact rather than run around from defenders.

“I’m very aggressive and go to the ball. I play wide receiver like a running back and will come at you and run you over. But I also have good finesse and am a good runner.”

With Chris’ shoulder fully healed, and a coaching staff that has handled players like Reggie Bush, the future offense of the University of Washington is looking bright.