One of the strangest chapters in my Husky sports memory is the saga of Chris Polk going undrafted. Polk had been a star at Washington, as you know, and even next to Locker I guess you could say he was my “favorite” Husky. So I tuned in to watch him run at the combine. I tuned in on the first day of the draft. And then I watched the rest of the rounds, all the way until the end of the 7th, with my mouth hanging wide open at the names being called instead of Polk. It just made no sense to me that teams were picking guys in the bottom rounds who had attitude or injury problems but without all that much college productivity. Why wouldn’t someone at least take a flyer on Polk?
Turns out a nasty rumor spread that one of Polk’s past shoulder injuries was degenerative. Degenerative is a naughty, naughty word in the NFL, and despite Polk and Washington’s team doctor denying it, the bruising back still went undrafted. Then he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, who already had a Pro-Bowl caliber player in LeSean McCoy and solid depth behind him. Polk played the first half of the season contributing on special teams before an injury ended his year early.
After a year in which Polk received zero carries and caught zero passes, it’s easy to forget that there were legitimate reasons for his 3rd round draft projections. The guy ran for 1488 yards and 12 scores in his final season at UW, and beyond this, teams were interested in the complete nature of his game. The solid pass blocking skills, the natural pass-catching. The contents of that last sentence are probably the main reason the Eagles picked up Polk as an UDFA in the first place.
All of this is suddenly relevant now that reports are coming out of Eagles camp that Chris Polk has played very well. According to Jimmy Kempski of philly.com, Polk has trimmed down to 216 from 230 (one complaint about him at the combine: his physique) while catching every pass that comes his way.
In Chip Kelly’s new offensive system (whatever that will look like) it’s a safe bet that versatility will be key. A back that can be trusted to catch the ball out of the backfield, protect his quarterback, and run the ball efficiently and without fumbling will find himself on the field. For Polk, that could mean a chance to put the ugly start to his NFL career in the past, most likely as a backup to LeSean McCoy. That role could be solidified by a solid performance in the preseason.
It might be a little awkward for Husky fans to see Polk thrive within an offensive system designed by Chip Kelly, but it’s a relationship that could pay serious dividends for one of Washington’s all-time great running backs.