Polk and Fogerson talk the talk

Chris Polk and Johri Fogerson, redshirt sophomore and true junior respectively, look to lead a young, but talented stable of running backs through the grind of fall practice and into the season. Polk told Dawgman.com that the key to success in camp is preparation and having fun, wisdom he tries to spread throughout the tight-knit group.

Though they don't possess the senior distinction typical of players who lead college football teams, Polk and Fogerson are the two most experienced tailbacks in Washington's camp this fall. Sophomore Demitrius Bronson has 19 career carries, and freshmen Jesse Callier and the now-injured Deontae Cooper are still waiting in the wings. Polk is coming off the best season by a freshman tailback in the school's history, running for 1,113 yards and five touchdowns while starting every game of the season. Fogerson, more of a receiving threat out of the backfield, has played in 16 games as a Husky, including the opening game against LSU last year when he had a 51-yard reception.

Holdovers from the debacle that was the Tyrone Willingham era, the two backs relish their role in ascending back to the golden days of Husky football, competing for Rose Bowl berths year-in and year-out.

"Honestly, it just feels good for things to finally turn around, and for me to be a part of this and help turn it around," said a reflective Fogerson. "As a vet, we're hungry already. We're here to go to the next level."

And in order to do so, they are being counted on to get the young guys ready to contribute in the fall, even if that means stepping outside of their comfort zone.

"Being that I'm the only one out of all of them whose actually had a whole year worth of game experience I've got to step up and be a leader. But I'm not that type of guy. I'm not a vocal leader, I'm a leader by example but, just being an older guy you have a sense of urgency, you've got to grow up quick," Polk said.

And he has grown up quick. Washington Head Coach Steve Sarkisian said during camp that Polk's extra emphasis on leading has been impressive. "He's responded beautifully," Sarkisian said of Polk. "I think the confidence he has coming off of last season, the offseason conditioning program, he's become a better student. And in turn, he's become a little bit more vocal, especially on the field with the younger guys because he understands the system now. He knows what to look for, he's watching the plays to see what's coming, and he's offering good advice to the young guys. And I think that's very important."

That willingness to dispense advice and be vocal has been instrumental in developing a bond among the running backs that is the tightest on the team. They love to see each other succeed. Said Fogerson about the constant cheering and chest bumps; "It's our job to make the defense look dumb. When it happens, why not celebrate with your teammate?"

But Camp Sark is not all roses and sunshine. There are going to be times when you get stuffed at the line, fumble, or miss a blocking assignment. "We know what camp's like," Fogerson said. "And in order to get through the tough times, [Chris and I] pick each other up, so everybody's learning. They're catching on. We're getting everybody some energy, so that's what we do - pick everybody up."

That energy is supplied, not only by moral support but also by the incessant trash talk the defense hears from Polk and Fogerson. Whether Polk believes he's leading vocally or not, it comes through in the woofing heard all the way to Section 24. "Naw, we never do that," Fogerson said with a sly smile. Polk was a little more honest. "It's our personality and we try to rile them up because all the time they talk stuff to us so we get tired of it and our coach [Joel Thomas], he teaches us not to take crap from nobody," he said, matter-of-factly.

Whether it's the second team defense or the spitfire linebackers of the Pac 10, the smack talk exudes a confidence and swagger that Polk is trying to rub off on the youngsters. "We're just trying to have Jesse [Callier] and Deontae [Cooper] do the same thing so we're just trying to have Jesse and Deontae follow in our place so we're just showing them how to do it," he said.

Though Cooper has been ruled out of this season due to a torn ACL, he remains a vital part of the running back fraternity Polk affectionately refers to as "The Wolfpack."

"All the running backs, we're the closest position on the team, but me and Johri since we've been here the same amount of time we have like a further relationship, we're like best friends," Polk said. "But you never see another running back alone, we're hanging out with each other every weekend, every day at school, everything. We even have classes together, we sit by each other all the time, talk to each other, joke around. We're never alone."

Polk's mantra is simple: Know what you are doing and have fun. He hopes that preparation, mixed with those brash smiles and tough talk, will lead to a ton of yards and even more wins this coming season.


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