Player Spotlight: Brandon Polk
When Saquon Barkley reached the end zone on his 85-yard touchdown reception last week against Georgia State, the first player to greet him was teammate Brandon Polk. There are many ways to describe Polk; small, quick, exciting, and overlooked all immediately jump to mind. But maybe the best way to describe Polk is unselfish.
As a freshman, Polk was known as “the jet-sweep guy”, starting three games as a true freshman at wide receiver. One of seven freshmen (three true, four red-shirt) to start a game in 2015, he played a prominent role in offensive coordinator John Donavon’s offense, using his speed to turn the corner on running plays.
When asked about his development from his role as a freshman, Polk said “I feel like right now I’m the complete receiver as opposed to when I came in here I was just the running guy.”
Polk appeared poised to gain an even more prominent role in the 2016 campaign especially as a kickoff returner. But after struggling early in the year and not producing at the same level as 2015, Polk also battled some injuries throughout the fall camp. It was decided that Polk would take a medical red-shirt and did not play the final 11 games of the season.
“It was a wakeup call” Polk said in reference to his 2016 injury, “when you are out there you just need to do everything to the best of your ability.”
Polk says he feels a lot stronger since arriving on the scene as a freshman. In an offense where receivers are required to block down field this comes in handy for Polk. “For me it’s just the heart. Blocking is a thing that you just have to want to do it,” Polk said.
This attitude may remind many Nittany Lion football fans of Trace McSorley, the feisty starting quarterback. On a Miles Sanders touchdown run last week, McSorley got in on the play throwing a block to spring Sanders into the open field. McSorley and Polk were teammates in high school in Virginia and won a state championship together. Originally recruited as a safety out of high school, McSorley shows his toughness on the field. It should not be a surprise to anyone that Polk describes McSorley as a “hard-hitter” on the defensive side of the ball.
When asked what his plans are after football, Polk has a response that few football players, or any college students can say. He hopes to attend law school. Both his parents are lawyers and Polk finds this career an attractive option. He is currently majoring in criminology at Penn State and hopes to be able to use this to springboard his way into a successful career of practicing law.
Polk’s speed and heart set him apart from many other receivers on Penn State’s roster. But he still has a lot of ground to make up after the 2016 injury set-back. With hard work he will get a chance to prove himself every week in the mix. After celebrating with Barkley on the running back’s long catch and run on Saturday, it shouldn’t be long before the roles are reversed and Barkley chases Polk into the end-zone.
Brian McLaughlin is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.