Ja’Lynn Polk registered 28 catches for 264 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman at Texas Tech in 2020, and caught at least one pass in all 10 games.
Why, then, did the east Texas product from little Lufkin High School — the same school as three-star UW running back signee Caleb Berry — enter the transfer portal and find a second home in Seattle, more than 2,200 miles away?
“Through Caleb (Berry), I was like, ‘Man, those guys at Washington are just some cool, down-to-earth, real coaches, man,’” said Victor Machado, Polk’s 7-on-7 coach and trainer at Fast Houston. “And I know they’re getting five-star Sam (incoming freshman QB Sam Huard). I was like, ‘Man, let me make a call real quick.’ Shoot, after that call the dominoes fell into place.”
Machado called UW head coach Jimmy Lake and running backs coach Keith Bhonapha.
And on Wednesday — National Signing Day for high-school seniors — Polk announced a transfer to Washington, where he’ll be immediately eligible to play this fall.
The former three-star prospect — who chose the Huskies over fellow finalists Houston and Kentucky and has four seasons of eligibility remaining — is expected to enroll for the spring semester, in time for UW’s April practices.
And once he arrives, Machado expects him to make an immediate impression.
“He’s not big on celebrations. He’ll give the ball to the ref,” Machado said. “But he’s going to make some plays. At 7-on-7, we just used to throw it to him. When we’d be talking to the quarterback, we’d say, ‘Just throw the ball to JP. He’s going to catch it. Throw it.’ He went a lot against (2019 consensus All-American) Derek Stingley, the corner for LSU. Man, he made Stingley look terrible.
“He’s going to be making some crazy catches and he’s going to be taking some slants all the way to the house. Believe that.”
But first, he’ll have to earn reps in a wide receiver room that also includes senior Terrell Bynum, junior Puka Nacua, sophomores Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan and incoming freshman Jabez Tinae, among others. Wideouts Ty Jones (Fresno State) and Jordan Chin (Sacramento State) each transferred from UW this offseason, creating an opportunity for Polk to join the fray.
In 2020, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound wide receiver signed with Texas Tech after amassing offers from Arkansas, Arizona, Baylor, Houston, Illinois, Kansas, Kansas State, Memphis, Minnesota, Tulane and more. He was ranked by 247Sports.com as a three-star recruit, the No. 55 player in the state of Texas and the No. 76 wide receiver nationally.
In a written evaluation in Sept. 2018, 247Sports recruiting analyst Gabe Brooks described Polk as a “taller, long, lean receiver prospect with (a) somewhat narrow core but frame space to continue adding good bulk. Fierce competitor. Shows consistent quickness off the line to get on top of DBs quickly. Effective in short, intermediate, and vertical passing games. Generally a hands catcher. Consistent in his get-open ability. Adequate to above average top-end speed with impressive short-area mobility, especially for a taller wideout. Sneaky fast in the open field after the catch. High ceiling as a route-runner. Height and leaping ability (35-inch vertical) provide reliable red-zone target and 50-50 ball-winner. Eagerly challenges DBs in those situations. Shows encouraging body control and adjustment ability.
“Needs to add bulk and strength. Can do a better job of leveraging DBs into breaks. Ball security can improve. One of the top receivers in Texas for his class with all-conference potential at the (Power Five) level and long-term NFL draft ceiling.”
Polk appears to have the physical profile to perform on the Pac-12 level.
But, according to Machado, what separates the sophomore receiver is everything else.
“He got it at such a young age,” Machado said. “In high school he was like that. He’d be lifting weights when no one else was lifting weights. He’d be on the younger guys when they were goofing around at practice. Since he was in high school he said, ‘I’m going to go to the NFL. I’m going to take care of my momma.’ He wants to buy his mom a house.”
If he takes enough slants to the house with the Huskies, Polk will be able to buy one before too long.