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A Pro Day to be proud of
It began with an explosive start. It included a stretch of fluid acceleration. It ended with Chris Polk allowing himself the slightest of a clinched fist after he crossed the finish line.
The University of Washington running back came into the Huskies’ Pro Day on Thursday wanting to run faster in the 40-yard dash than he had at the NFL Scouting Combine. Polk did just that, and then some.
After clocking an official time of 4.57 seconds in Indianapolis last month, Polk’s times in his pair of 40-yard dashes at Dempsey Indoor ranged from 4.45 to 4.48 seconds on his first run and between 4.47 and 4.51 seconds on his second attempt. He said his electronic time was 4.49 seconds. Anyway you click the stopwatch, that’s the kind of improvement Polk was chasing.
“I feel I could have done better,” Polk said after slapping an exclamation point on his impressive workout. “But I’m just glad that I came out here and improved on my time. So I can’t argue with that.”
Polk even scored points on his slower second run, when he had a misstep coming off the line.
“I think he actually accelerated better on his second 40-yard dash,” said Rob Rang, senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com. “I like to see a guy who maybe if things don’t go perfectly, he still has the ability to improve.”
As important as the timing was for Polk, the representatives from the 15 or so NFL teams in attendance already have seen enough of the multitalented back who ran for 1,488 yards and 12 touchdowns last season to push his career totals to 4,049 and 26.
“If you want to know what Chris Polk is capable of,” offered a scout from an NFC team, “just put on his film. That will show you all you need to know about this kid.”
After all was said and run, Rang agreed with that assessment.
“Chris Polk ran well today,” Rang said. “But at the same time, very few times on tape have I ever seen him be caught from behind. I don’t know if I ever have, to be honest with you. So I don’t know that a 40-yard dash time in shorts is going to prove he can beat NFL linebackers to the edge.
“It was a strong work out, but it went basically about as expected – he stars as a receiver out of the backfield, he dove to the ground to make some catches. That just speaks to his competitive spirit.”
Polk was one of 16 Huskies who worked out, and despite only-improved-their-stock efforts from linebacker Cort Dennison and defensive lineman Alameda Ta’amu, Polk was the one who stood out. In addition to doing 16 reps with 225 pounds in the bench press, Polk was fluid in position drills and displayed soft hands catching the ball from former UW QB Jake Locker – a first-round draft choice by the Tennessee Titans last year.
“It took me back a little bit catching balls from Jake,” Polk said with a smile. “I was just glad he was able to come back and I’m just blessed to be in the situation I am now.”
But then there was a lot for Polk to smile about, including his improved physique. After playing at 222 pounds last season and weighing 224 at the Senior Bowl in January, Polk has continued to shed pounds. He was 215 at the Combine last month and checked in at 212 pounds on Thursday.
“I wasn’t working out as much after the season, so fat kind of went down in this area a little bit more,” Polk, smiling again, said as he laid his hands on his stomach. “When I went to the Senior Bowl and I was at the weigh-in, I was flexing and I was looking down and I didn’t see any abs.
“I was like, ‘OK, I’ve got to get right. This isn’t my body I’m used to.’ ”
So the pounds came off, and the abs reappeared.
“That’s just working hard; doing extra abs, eating right,” he said. “Just an overall belief in what you’re doing and the people around you. I just didn’t want to leave anything out there negative about me. I just really wanted to go in and show them how much I love football and how much I really do care.”
Not that Polk needed to hit it out of Dempsey Indoor on Thursday, but his “victory lap” of a 40 did allow him to touch all the bases.
“I see him as a guy who is similar, in some ways, to Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch in that he is just a very physical running back,” Rang said. “To me, he has two things about him that are special: He runs through contact as well as any back in his draft, including in my opinion Alabama’s Trent Richardson; and he catches the ball so well out of the backfield.
“To me, that’s a very unique combination of skills.”