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Originally published Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 7:24 PM

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Chris Polk will stay at Washington for junior season

Washington running back Chris Polk will not enter the NFL draft and will return to play his junior season for the Huskies.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Chris Polk, the first Washington running back to rush for 1,000 or more yards in each of his first two seasons, will remain in school for his junior season, his mother Edrena said Tuesday night.

"Let everybody know we are going to stay," she said in a phone interview.

Polk ran for 1,415 yards as a sophomore, the second-most in Huskies history (behind Corey Dillon's 1,695 in 1996) and also second in the Pac-10 behind Oregon's LaMichael James. As a third-year sophomore (he redshirted in 2008 after having shoulder surgery), he was eligible for the NFL draft if he declared by Saturday's deadline, and acknowledged late in the season that he would assess his options.

"Of course you are going to think about it," Edrena Polk said. "That's everyone's dream. We just want to make sure he is ready. ... We had a talk and weighed the options and prayed about it," and the decision was then made to stay for another season.

"Right now we feel it's best that he finish school (he should finish his degree by staying one more year) and he also loves the team and loves the coaches there," she said. "So he feels it's best that he stays."

Draft analysts had said Polk could have been picked as high as the second round had he decided to declare.

Instead, he decided to stay at UW and won't add his name to what is suddenly a full field at running back. Twelve underclassmen have said they will make themselves eligible for the draft, including Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State and Shane Vereen of California.

Polk's return is vital for a UW team that will rebuild offensively after the graduation of quarterback Jake Locker. Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian has said he hopes to have a strong running game to take some pressure off the new quarterback — either sophomore Keith Price or freshman Nick Montana.

Polk rushed for 177 yards in UW's 19-7 win over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl and 284 in the Apple Cup win over Washington State.

Polk's return also solidifies what could be one of the best running-back groups in the new Pac-12. Jesse Callier will return for his sophomore season, and UW also expects to get back Deontae Cooper, who suffered an ACL tear and missed his freshman season.

Polk finished 13th nationally in rushing yards this year.

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

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