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‘I’m Gonna Shock a Lot of People’: Pitt 2023 WR Commit Israel Polk Already Dreams Big



He goes by Izzy. Whether he’s walking the halls of St. John Bosco High, back home with his family in the Bay Area or just hanging out with his friends, everyone calls him Izzy.

It’s not Israel Abanikanda. It’s Israel Polk — the newest commit in Pitt’s class of 2023.

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However, Polk is keenly aware of who Abanikanda is. He recognizes the impact that the elder Izzy has had during his career at Pitt, respects it, but he doesn’t feel like he needs to be any other Izzy than who he is now.

“I don’t feel like I have any shoes to fill, honestly,” Polk told Pittsburgh Sports Now Sunday night. “I’m gonna come in and be myself. And (Pitt is) gonna get a playmaker.”

Polk, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound wide receiver from St. John Bosco in Bellflower, California, committed to Pitt Sunday night. He flipped his commitment from Colorado State after the Pitt coaching staff made him feel like he was a No. 1 priority.

Pitt may have been a ‘bigger’ school than Colorado State, but that wasn’t why he made the decision to flip. When he arrived in Pittsburgh for the first time, it just felt right. It was a place where he felt like he didn’t need to change who he was to fit in.

“When I got there, it just felt like home, honestly,” Polk said. “It’s really family-oriented; it was comfortable when I get there. Everybody was cool, the players are super cool, and I didn’t have to try to act a certain way. I was myself. It just fit.”

The process moved very, very quickly for Polk. Pat Narduzzi and Tim Salem flew out to the Bay Area to see him Thursday. And it ended with Polk flying back to Pittsburgh the same day.

“I knew they were really high on me because — it was crazy — they flew me out and offered me in the same day,” Polk said. “That was just crazy for me. They really brought out the red carpet. I’m still kinda shocked, honestly.”

Polk has always wanted to travel, to get away from California, but it was still his first time out in Pennsylvania. The Christmas forecast in Los Angeles is 79 degrees and partly cloudy. The Christmas forecast in Pittsburgh is 19 degrees and snowy.

Even on Polk’s official visit, as he watched the snow fall from a cloudy sky and realized he wasn’t in California anymore, he had a whole lot of fun. He was able to see Pitt’s entire facility down on the South Side, the facility itself and the indoor and outdoor practice fields, to get a feel for the program.

In the midst of watching the Pittsburgh Steelers practice, sharing a quick conversation with Steelers star Najee Harris — with whom he shares some family connections — and getting to see the Panthers-Steelers connection up close, he saw it all.

Even if it sometimes feel real, Polk was able to see it all. Pitt rolled out the red carpet, made him a priority and granted him a chance to interact with the Steelers on his official visit. But perhaps most importantly, he just felt like he belonged. He felt like Pitt was exactly what he was waiting for.

“I was telling my family and my coaches up there, I was in my hotel room, kinda like, ‘Am I asleep right now?’ It didn’t really register yet, but I’m just shocked right now,” Polk said. “I don’t really know what to say.”

It’s been a stressful recruiting process over the years, a long process, for sure, but he’s happy he doesn’t have to worry about it anymore. It feels good to know that he’s in good hands at Pitt. In the hands of a coach like Narduzzi.

But if there’s one way to describe Polk, it’s confidence. He’s set big goals for himself.

“(Pitt is) gonna play who they think is ready and who’s good and who’s producing, so for me, I don’t really have a doubt in my mind that I’m not going to be playing a significant amount — if not starting,” Polk said.

Polk left Pittsburg High in the Bay Area after his junior season for a chance to play at St. John Bosco — which would finish the 2022 season as the No. 1 high school in the country, according to MaxPreps. He was good at Pittsburg, but he was great at St. John Bosco.

Despite Division I commits in DeAndre Moore Jr., Jahlil McClain (and a Division I prospect in Eric Denham) in the same wide receivers’ room, Polk still led the team in catches.

He hauled in 26 receptions for 458 yards (17.6 yards per reception) and eight touchdowns in 2022 — showing an all-around knack for finding the end zone.

Polk did it all as a 16-year-old. He doesn’t turn 17 until next week. He’s young, hungry and ready to show that he hasn’t even scratched the surface of his potential.

“I’m gonna shock a lot of people,” Polk said. “I’ve kinda been under the radar my whole life, but that’s good. I’ve got a chip on my shoulder. I show people what I’m about.

“I wouldn’t say I’m like anyone besides myself honestly. I have a mix of everything; I can do everything. I catch the ball, I run good routes, I’m shifty, I got good YAC, and I’m an all-around player. They’re going to get a playmaker.”

According to Polk, Pitt is going to get a playmaker. And it’s going to be sooner rather than later. He plans to sign on National Signing Day this week, and subsequently enroll early at Pitt in January. As he said, he’ll be back in Pittsburgh real soon.

“Get ready,” Polk said, “it’s going to be a movie. It’s gonna be real fun, and, I don’t know, I’m excited. I just kinda don’t really have a lot of words. I’m just excited, and it’s gonna be fun to watch. They’re gonna get a great player out of me.”

From Pittsburg High to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it’s a whirlwind journey for Polk. But he couldn’t be more excited to begin the next phase of his journey as a Pittsburgh Panther.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Burton Tee
Burton Tee
1 year ago

Hopefully fans can continue to wear their “Izzy to the Hizzy” gear!


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