Ja’Lynn Polk’s recruitment started before his recruitment started.
The above statement will soon make sense.
Polk — a 6-foot-2, 190-pound wide receiver, who announced a transfer to Washington last week — signed with Texas Tech in the 2020 class. His Lufkin High School teammate, 2021 UW running back signee Caleb Berry, occasionally asked Polk for input throughout his own recruiting process.
So, in a sense, Washington was knowingly recruiting Berry — while unknowingly recruiting Polk.
“I went through the process before (Berry) of recruiting and trying to find the right place to go,” Polk told The Times last week. “He reached out to me a couple times, just asking for some kind of input on the process and the decision that needs to be made. I kind of helped him a little bit and was there for him, being a friend and somebody that went through it already, just to give a little knowledge.
“He just let me know that Washington is a great place to be. He showed me some of the videos of when he went to visit when he was going through his process. It wasn’t me just seeing this recently. I’ve seen Washington through Caleb’s process and his decision. I had a little bonus (recruitment) even before they started talking to me.”
So, when UW wide receivers coach Junior Adams, offensive coordinator John Donovan and head coach Jimmy Lake contacted Polk last month, the former Lufkin High School standout already was familiar with the program. He ultimately chose Washington over fellow finalists Houston and Kentucky, after receiving more than 15 offers — from Texas Tech, Arkansas, Arizona, Baylor, Illinois, Kansas, Kansas State, Minnesota and more — throughout a prolific prep career.
Polk — who finished second in Lufkin High School history in career receptions (131) and receiving yards (2,412), and third in receiving touchdowns (24) — plans to arrive in March, in time for the spring quarter. He’ll have four seasons of eligibility to make a name on Montlake.
But, besides a familiar face, what separated Washington?
“I was just looking for somewhere where I can develop better, come into a program where it’s a family and everybody’s united,” said Polk, who is immediately eligible to play this fall. “Throughout the process it was a tough decision to make. After having conversations with Coach Lake and Coach Adams and Coach JD (John Donovan), it was what I wanted it to be. I feel like I can be a big part of helping this team continue with what they’re doing.”
Indeed, Polk’s presence could propel a Husky offense that ranked third in the Pac-12 in yards per pass attempt (8.2) last season and fifth in passing offense (226.5 passing yards per game). As a true freshman at Texas Tech in 2020, Polk registered 28 receptions for 264 yards and two touchdowns, catching at least one pass in all 10 games. He joins a Husky receiving corps that lost Ty Jones to the transfer portal this offseason but returns senior Terrell Bynum, junior Puka Nacua, sophomores Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan and incoming freshman Jabez Tinae, among others.
The Huskies — who also return their entire starting offensive line, all scholarship running backs and All-Pac-12 first-team tight end Cade Otton — will hold a quarterback competition between returning starter Dylan Morris, graduate transfer Patrick O’Brien and five-star freshman Sam Huard as well.
Polk is one potentially important piece in the Huskies’ passing puzzle.
“I’m a very explosive, energetic playmaker,” he said when asked to describe his game. “I feel like whenever I step in the receiver position room I can help continue what they’re doing and be a big part of helping each other get better, helping the team get better and helping compete for a national championship.”
Of course, a national championship is an ongoing goal.
But it isn’t the only one.
For Polk — who once dreamed of racing dirt bikes, and played AAU basketball in middle school before devoting himself to football besides Berry at Lufkin — the ultimate goal is to keep working, so his mother doesn’t have to.
“For me growing up, with the things we had to go through, to see how strong of a woman she is and how hard of a worker she is, it motivates me a lot,” Polk said of his mom, Jennifer Fredieu. “I’ve seen her work so hard, have three jobs, coming home and then going back to work, just doing everything she can in order for me and my little sister to have what we have today and what we needed.
“For her to do everything she can to provide for us all of our lives, it drives me a lot, because I want her to not have to work so hard one day.”
In Seattle, Polk is hoping that his second recruitment sticks.
And, with Berry by his side, the work at Washington is about to begin.