Boonville Pirates football player Josh Polk knew that he was a long shot to play college football because of his size.
Although Polk led the Pirates in tackles the last-two years, he knew his 5-10 frame would scare a lot of coaches off when it came time to recruiting.
But one college took a chance on Polk and that was all the senior standout needed to sign a national letter of intent.
In front of teammates, coaches, family and friends in the media center at Boonville High School, Polk signed a letter of intent on Wednesday to play football for William Jewell College in Liberty.
“I chose William Jewell because of coach Pat Hansen,” Polk said. “He is the linebackers coach at Jewell and he showed the most interest in me as a player because a lot of schools wouldn’t give me the time of day because of my size. But I guess he saw the size of the fight in the dog and gave me the best opportunity. I visited the campus and met the coaching staff and just fell in love with the program.”
Boonville Pirates football coach Greg Hough said Polk checks all of the boxes except for one to most coaches and that’s physical measurements.
“There are multiple periods of the recruiting process and it starts a lot earlier than what many know and many different layers; academics, physical measurements, mental capacity, character, athletic ability, team success, etc.,” Hough said.
“Josh didn’t realize he could play at the next level until we attended some camps this past summer and his eyes were opened that he could compete at a high level versus kids bigger and faster than him. It wasn’t just me saying “you can do this if you want to”, it was realized by him and he did everything he needed to on the field and off the field to make this happen.”
Wherever Polk ended up playing football, the stats proved without a doubt that he could play at the next level.
A three-time all-conference performer in both the North Central Conference and Tri-County Conference, Polk was also selected two years running on the Central Missouri All-District team.
But that’s not all. In addition to be named to the all-state team by the Missouri Football Coaches Association, Polk was also selected to the KMZU Dream Team and a Pirate Pride Award winner.
Polk’s career tackles also ranks among some of the best at Boonville High School. In his four-year career, Polk finished with a total of 295 tackles (177 solos, 118 assists) along with 30 tackles for loss, four fumble recoveries, three interceptions, 2.5 sacks, one blocked punt and one blocked field goal.
Polk also had his best senior this past season while finishing with 68 solo stops and 48 assisted tackles for a total of 116. He also had 14 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 interception and one blocked punt.
Polk said he’s participated in organized tackle football for 12 years but has definitely been around the gridiron since birth.
Polk’s oldest brother, Tyler, currently plays at Central Methodist University in Fayette.
“They want me to play outside linebacker, which is what I have played my whole high school career,” Polk said. “I’ll be used to set edges and take on everything that bounces outside the box.”
Although Polk has always been considered too small for his position and too slow to play corner or safety, he said he wants to gain some weight in the right way and maintain speed.
Polk already knows what he wants to accomplish in his first-two years at Jewell. He said the first-two years, he wants to learn the system and earn the coaches respect.
“I want to get in there and grind and just do everything they ask of me and then some,” Polk said.
As for his long range goals, Polk said it’s to have the same mindset-which is to work hard, do what he loves and always respect a coaches decision at the end of the day.
“I just want to contribute wherever I am needed to for the team,” Polk said.
As it turned out, Polk may have fell into William Jewell’s lap with a new head coach and staff.
Hough said in December, William Jewell’s linebackers coach came through recruiting athletes and he spoke about Polk and who he was as a student-athlete, as a leader, and his immeasurable attitude and effort.
“Before disclosing any “physical information” on Josh I pulled up his film on Hudl and showed the coach,” Hough said. “After a minute of viewing, the coach said “I want that kid” and the rest is history. William Jewell will provide Josh with many opportunities to grow as a student-athlete, earn a degree and proceed with his military obligations. Josh will also open doors for future Pirates at William Jewell.”
Polk said he is still looking into West Point Military Academy.
But for now, William Jewell College is the place that Polk wants to spend the next four years as a football player and student.
Needless to say, Polk said he will miss everything about high school football. He said there is absolutely nothing like Friday Night Lights.
“I love the community, the team, and my coaches,” Polk said. “The biggest struggle for me was taking off the jersey for the last time. I’m going to miss the bond I have with my team and coaches. There is no other staff like the one here at Boonville and I’ll run through a brick wall and bang my head on a goalpost for any of them any day. However, one of the biggest things I’ll miss is waking up sore on Saturday mornings bright and early to go watch film then go to breakfast with the guys and discuss the highs and lows of last night’s game.”
As for the highlight of his career, Polk said it was just bonding with the guys and representing Boonville. He said football is bigger than just a game to him.
“It’s a family and a huge part of who I am and I wouldn’t trade any of my relationships for the world,” Polk said. “I’ll miss the 5 a.m. workouts with my team and hanging out with them all day afterwards. As an individual I think the highlight of my career was getting selected as a captain by my teammates. I received numerous accolades in my career but the most important and valuable thing to me was being viewed as a leader by my peers.”
Polk also recalls the days of playing for his dad, who was his first coach.
“My dad and my brother have always been the biggest influence in my life for football,” Polk said. “My dad was my first coach and my brother used to beat me up in the backyard. They made me into the player I am today and taught effort, attitude and toughness, and that dynamite comes in small packages.”
Hough put it best when talking about Polk.
“Josh has meant more to me, other coaches and teammates, more off the field than on,” Hough said. “That is the best compliment I can give a player who has been three-time all-conference, all-district and all-state. What he has done for others and the example he has set will be remembered and hold more clout than any award.
“Josh will be missed not only by us as a football program but BHS as a family. His impact is and has been huge here and I can speak for many when I saw we wish him the best and “THANK YOU POOKY” for being who you are.”