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Pitt Early Enrollee WR Israel Polk is Ready to Show Off What He Can Do



Israel Polk had committed to Washington State. But he didn’t have a graphic ready.

It was about a week before December’s Signing Day, and he was committed to Colorado State when he received a home visit from a couple of Washington State coaches.

He decommitted from Colorado State and told the WSU coaches that he was committed. But he didn’t announce anything. No one knew he was committed. But when he woke up the next morning, he received a text from Pitt. He received an offer, and Pat Narduzzi and Tim Salem would be making a home visit of their own.

He may have started the day in the Bay Area, but he went to sleep that night in Pittsburgh as part of his official visit.

“They just shot me straight,” Polk said. “I felt like I had a great chance to come in and ball and make a difference. They flew me out the same night, had a great weekend and I just felt like it was home up here. Coach (Tiquan) Underwood is a great dude.”

Polk — a 6-foot-2, 175-pound wideout from St. John Bosco High in California — committed to Pitt just three days after he received the offer over offers from Army, Brown, California, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada, Oregon State, Princeton, San Diego State, San Jose State, Utah State, UNLV, Washington State and Yale.

He made the decision to leave home early to go to Pitt, enrolling at the university in mid-January, but he’s no stranger to making difficult decisions either.

Polk left his hometown Pittsburg High in the Bay Area to attend his senior season of high school at national powerhouse St. John Bosco High in the Los Angeles area. He joined a team that featured major Division I talent at every level — especially wideout.

“For me,” Polk said, “I just wanted to be on a big enough stage to show what I can do.”

And he came in and led the squad with 26 receptions, adding 458 yards (17.6 yards per reception) and eight touchdowns in 2022 — showing an all-around knack for finding the end zone. All at 16 years old. He just turned 17.

St. John Bosco fulfilled its hype last season, winning the CIF – Open Division championship and being named MaxPreps’ national champion. And Polk showcased his ability in a big way, but it was more about earning that respect, which is his plan once again now that he’s at Pitt.

“When I went there, I showed everybody what I could do, and that’s kind of my plan here,” Polk said. “I don’t expect anyone to hand me anything because that’s how I want it to go. I want to work for everything, I want to be able to gain that respect and trust.”

It’s only been a month since Polk arrived back in Pittsburgh full-time, learning the Pittsburgh area, starting classes in Oakland and getting used to the facility on the South Side, but he’s been greeted by the wide receiver’s room with open arms.

“It’s a real family-oriented place,” Polk said. “The players are cool, the coaches, everything, it’s a home. Myles Alston, that’s my guy, Konata Mumpfield, Bub Means, all those guys in the receiving room are really cool and just have given me tips to just kinda tell me what I need to do to show what I can do.”

Polk watched how a player like Jared Wayne operated in Pitt’s wide receivers’ room last season, seeing how he scored three touchdowns against Miami, and he’s excited to carve his own path.

He sees how Pitt’s offense under Frank Cignetti Jr. plans to scheme its wideouts open.

“I feel like there’s no limit to my game,” Polk said. “I can do whatever. I started off as a quarterback as a young kid — played running back, too. I just wanna ball.”

If Polk is anything, he’s versatile. He’s done it all at the high school level, but when it comes to making an impact at the collegiate level, he can see himself inside or outside. He’ll likely see both.

Pitt’s offense, of course, is way more complex. The terminology and the scheme are different, but he’s learning every day. And he’ll continue to learn through the spring.

When it comes to Polk’s adjustment to Pittsburgh as a whole, as a self-identified homebody, it’s been the relationships he’s already built that have stood out.

And, of course, despite the Bay Area roots, Polk has a relationship with Pitt already. His uncle Latef Grim starred as a wideout on the Panthers’ Big East squads in the late 1990s. He formed an elite duo with Biletnikoff Award winner Antonio Bryant in 2000.

Grim left Pitt as its all-time leader in receptions, a record that has since been broken by Tyler Boyd and Devin Street, but he carved his place into Pitt history. He caught 178 passes for 2,680 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Polk has big shoes to fill when it comes to his uncle, but he’s planning to come in, work and earn the respect and trust of the coaching staff, his teammates and Pitt fans.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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1 year ago

I love his attitude – his resume shows great skills and results – looking forward to watching him play and have great success at Pitt. H2P

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