Judging by the start of his career at Washington, it was going to be a long and tough road. Two games played with only 33 yards, and a season ending injury. Luckily for Polk and Husky fans, it was not an indication of the future.
It may have been a blessing in disguise that Polk avoided the pounding he was likely to receive in the ill fated 2008 season, receive a medical red-shirt, and instead came back fresh in 2009 to began what has been a highly productive career for Polk thus far.
While Jake Locker got all the national hype and attention in 2009 and 2010, it was Chris Polk's physical running style that has been the largest factor in returning Washington's offense to respectability. Polk's violent running style has symbolized a return to the ground game for the Husky program, and the results speak for themselves.
Washington, up until the Rick Neuheisel era, was known as a running team. The Huskies had deviated so far from that style of offense, there were no 1000 yard rushers from 1997 until 2007. That was following a streak of 7 strait 1000 yard rushrs from 1989-1997. In 2007 Locker provided nearly a thousand yards and Louis Rankin put up 1294 yards on the ground.
Unlike Rankin's spread offense produced 1000 + yards, Polk has done it the 'old fashioned' way with a traditional Pro Style offense. He also did it without the benefit of a run first QB, which Locker was in 2007.
With 2008 season lost to injury, Polk entered 2009 healthy and with a new coaching staff. The results were 180 degree reversal from his 2008 start, as Polk set a Husky freshmen rushing record with 1,113 yards on 226 carries. This was not only the best rushing season for UW freshmen, but also 7th best in Washington Huskies history.
The Huskies pulled out of the hole that was the 0-12 season, posting a 5-7 record and a upset over the then third ranked USC Trojans. The Huskies finished the season on a high note, and for the time in years the Huskies went into the off-season with expectations of a winning season.
Fulfilling those expectations proved to be easier said than done. While Jake finished with a flurry in 2009, he was still learning the quarterback position in 2010 under Sarkisian, and it showed. The Huskies started the season going 3-5, putting their backs against the wall. That is when Sarkisian and his staff turned to Polk, who responded by putting up 519 yards and 4 touchdowns in the last three regular season games.
Powered by Polk's hard running style the Huskies were bowl eligible for the first time since 2003. The Huskies bowl opponent turned out to be a familiar face, the Nebraska team that had come into Husky Stadium and destroyed the Huskies 56-21. During that game Polk up only 57 yards on 18 carries, as the blackshirts stifled the Huskies offense all over the field.
Fast forward to the Holiday bowl, and the Husky team that Nebraska had destroyed had developed into a physical team with a strong running game. The new found power running game would prove to be effective in the Holiday Bowl, as Polk was able to put up 178 yards on 34 carries, leading Washington to a 19-7 victory over a lethargic Nebraska, and garnering Polk MVP honors for the game.
Polk ended the season with 1415 yards and nine touchdowns. His 1,415 rank second in school history only to Napolean Kaufman, and is just the third UW running back to have back to back 1000 yards.
Going into the 2011 season Polk has amassed 2,561 yards on the ground, putting him third most in school history with two more years of eligibility left. Chris has continued his strong performances into this season, producing 611 yards on the ground and three touchdowns five games into the season. In the five games this season Polk has only had one game where he failed to reach 100 yards, and is averaging over 20 yards a carry.
The Huskies are continuing their upward trend, and Polk is still leading the charge. In Polk the Huskies have a back who looks for defenders to run to, and seems offended when he is brought down by anything less than a solid tackle.
Despite having been recruited in 2008 by Willingham, Polk will go down as one of, if not THE, leading offensive player in Washington's return to respectability under Sarkisian. Polk has been through quite a ride at Washington, but like his running style, nothing has been able to slow him down. He should be remembered as the face of the Huskies turn around from 0-12 back to PAC-12 respectability.