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Originally published Thursday, September 3, 2009 at 3:21 PM

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UW sophomore Jordan Polk has emerged as a playmaker for Huskies

Polk, definitely the smallest and probably the fastest UW player, will get plenty of chances this season as a receiver and kick returner.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

LSU @ Washington, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

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It's been an eventful year for Jordan Polk.

Since he stepped onto the University of Washington campus last fall, he has:

• Gained a cousin he never knew he had;

• put on about 13 pounds;

• earned a possible new designation with the football team — starting receiver.

The sophomore from Portland is listed as a co-starter with Devin Aguilar at one receiver spot entering Saturday night's season opener against Louisiana State, having been one of the highlight players of fall camp.

Even if he doesn't start — who does at receiver is often as dependent on what formation is called for the first play as much as anything else — Polk is certain to have a significant role in the offense.

"He's really stepped up his mental game," said receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty. "He always had that swagger and the physical ability to catch the ball. It was just a matter of the mental side catching up to the physical side, and he's been able to do that. He's a very versatile guy, good at a lot of different things, so he's a guy we are going to make sure we use and [he] touches the ball."

Polk might be the fastest guy on the team, having won the Oregon state 100-meter title as a senior at Lincoln High in 10.63 seconds.

The only reason there's any question in his mind is that he hasn't been timed in a 40-yard dash since coming to UW.

"I've always been sick or hurt [when the timing was done]," he said.

Polk said running back Curtis Shaw, who ran a 10.54 100 as a high-school senior in Stockton, Calif., likes to debate the issue with him, but added with a smile, "I have a feeling I'm the fastest guy on the team."

There's no debate that he's the smallest. He's listed at 5 feet 8 and 162 pounds (though he says he's really 166), the shortest and lightest among the team's position players.

Still, he's feeling downright lineman-esque compared to a year ago. Listed at 161 last season, he said he was really "like 153. I was really small. ... Keeping weight on has been a hard thing for me because I always ran track and did a lot of running. I've been on this little diet trying to stay slim but still gain some weight and keep my speed."

He says it seems to be working, the weight gain this year turning him into a sturdier player.

"I've noticed a big change," he said. "I feel stronger and I just feel way better from last year."

But no matter how much weight he puts on, he'll always be among the smallest players in any game he participates. "It doesn't really matter to me," he said. "I just go out there and play."

Indeed, Dougherty said the coaching staff noticed Polk's toughness early on.

"He doesn't know he's 5-7, 160, so it's a good thing," Dougherty said. "There's no doubt in my mind he can handle the rigors of a whole season and play at a high level. There's no concerns with that. He has a huge heart."

Not only will Polk work as a receiver, but he will also get a few carries — he had nine last year for 60 yards, more than double his receptions total of four — and be one of the starting kickoff returners.

There, he will team with newfound relative Quinton Richardson.

Jordan Polk came to UW knowing he was a second cousin of running back Chris Polk. But it wasn't until last season he figured out he and Richardson, a graduate of O'Dea, were also distant cousins. "My aunt is married to his uncle, so it's kind of crazy," he said.

What's not crazy is his emergence as a possible starter. Due in part to his size and role on the team last year as something of a situational player, many observers figured that's where he'd likely be again this season.

But Polk emerged in camp as one of the team's most consistent playmakers, and he has just as consistently been running with the starting unit the past two weeks.

"It hasn't really surprised me," he said. "I'm just going out there and doing what my coaches tell me to do and make plays. I'm not really surprised by anything. I work hard for everything I do, so that's pretty much it."

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

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