After running back Chris Polk wasn't selected during day two of the NFL Draft on Friday, he had a sense something "fishy" was going on.
One of the most prolific running backs in the history of the University of Washington, the 5-11, 222-pound Polk was rated as the 78th-best prospect in the draft by longtime NFL talent evaluator Gil Brandt. NFL Network's Mike Mayock ranked Polk as the No. 93 overall prospect and the eighth-best running back.
Certainly, it was expected that Polk would be selected with at least one of the NFL Draft's 253 selections.
It didn't happen. Once the draft frenzy ended, the real chaos started. Coaches and scouts from all 32 teams are on the phone with undrafted players to try and get them signed as rookie free agents. Polk got his call from former Eagles running back Duce Staley, who is now the team's special teams quality control coach and also assists with the running backs.
Polk embraced the one benefit of being a free agent - the ability to pick one's own team. Staley pitched Polk on knowing what it takes to succeed in the NFL and that he and running backs coach Ted Williams can bring the best out of Polk. Williams' track record since taking over a running backs coach in 1997 is extraordinary. Staley, Ricky Watters, Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy each have carved out 1,000-yard rushing campaigns under Williams' tutelage.
"I just felt like Philadelphia was the best fit for me," Polk said, who raved about the chance to play with McCoy. "Everything happens for a reason. I'm in the situation that I'm in now. I'm just really blessed to be part of a team and have a few more days to showcase my ability and show the world what I can do."
Polk liked the fit with the Eagles for a number of reasons. First, Polk played in a similar style of offense under Steve Sarkisian at Washington and is familiar with the Eagles' zone blocking principles. Second, the amount of career carries on the Eagles roster after McCoy is 23, all by Dion Lewis as a rookie last year. The other Eagles running backs are Graig Cooper, who was with the team in camp last year, and seventh-round pick Bryce Brown.
The Eagles had a fourth-round grade on Polk but didn't have a pre-draft visit or workout. Reports surfaced over the weekend that it was a shoulder injury that wiped Polk off of draft boards. Polk played in two games as a freshman in 2008 before a shoulder injury ended his season. He received a medical redshirt and in 2009 returned to have the best season by a freshman running back in school history with 1,113 yards and five touchdowns. He has not missed a game since 2008. He had 1,415 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns in 2010. Last season, Polk had 1,488 yards on the ground, 332 receiving yards and 16 total touchdowns.
"I haven't missed any games in the three years I've played," Polk said. "I'm still running the way I am. I can still catch. I can still do all of the things. I'm just going to make the best out of my situation. I'm just really happy, really glad that I can live out my dream to play football."
What makes Polk's situation more amazing is that he's such a violent runner who initiates contact. If he has a bad shoulder, how could he have survived 857 touches over the past three seasons?
"I'm a one-cut, get downhill and get all of you can (type of back)," Polk said. "I would rather hit and initiate the contact first before the defender does. ... I'd rather fall forward and see what I can get."
Polk will be in Philadelphia on May 12 for the rookie mini-camp ready to compete. He has been at his home in California working out. Rookie free agents have enjoyed success in Philadelphia during Andy Reid's tenure as head coach. Quintin Mikell, Jamaal Jackson, Greg Lewis, Akeem Jordan and Rod Hood are just a few rookie free agents who have thrived with the Eagles. Polk may not have been draft, but he has his opportunity. It's up to him to make the most of it.
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