KENT: Darius Polk has started five games at cornerback in his collegiate career, all in place of his best friend — former Buchtel standout Norman Wolfe.
So when Polk, a junior cornerback gets the rare opportunity to start in Kent State’s secondary, he feels like he’s playing as much for himself and the team as he is for Wolfe, whom he considers a brother.
“Norman and I have been through everything together,” said Polk, who has two other brothers (Martin and Malcolm) back home in Lynchburg, Va. “I’m blessed that he and his family just took me in like one of their own.”
Polk and Wolfe not only push each other on the football field, but they also have been roommates for three years and spend most of their time off the field together as well.
During the Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, Polk is happy to stay in Ohio instead of making the expensive trip home, always looking forward to joining Wolfe’s relatives for home-cooked meals and family time.
The two are so close that when Wolfe became the father of daughter Milan a year ago, he asked Polk to be the baby’s godfather. That’s why there’s no one happier for Polk’s recent success than Wolfe (who broke his arm in the first quarter at Kentucky on Sept. 8).
Starting at cornerback last week for the first time this season, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Polk held Buffalo’s top receiver, Alex Neutz, in check, earning two awards following his strong defensive effort in the Flashes’ 24-14 victory over the host Bulls.
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Neutz, the favorite target of Buffalo quarterback Alex Zordich, had four inches and 20 pounds on Polk.
But Polk held Neutz to just one big catch — a 46-yard reception on a Hail Mary pass into the end zone on the final play of the first half. For his efforts, he won the Mid-American Conference East Division Defensive Player of the Week and National Defensive Back Performer of the Week honorable mention from the National Football Performance Awards.
Polk got his hands on the ball four times, coming up with two interceptions, three solo tackles and two pass break-ups.
“I really appreciate the energy and effort that Darius brings every day,” Flashes defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Jon Heacock said. “He always has a smile on his face, is a great young man and works his tail off. He practices every day like he is the starter. He really takes it to heart, like the world depends on him, that’s what’s so special about him.”
Polk has been with the Flashes since the spring of 2009, when he enrolled in college early out of Virginia’s Hargrave Military Academy in order to participate in spring ball. He’s been a key member of KSU’s special teams since, taking on double duty last season, starting four games while Wolfe was sidelined with a foot injury.
“I love special teams,” Polk said. “If I need a break, I’ll sit out on defense before I take myself out on special teams. Special teams are that critical to a team’s success in a game.”
But so is defense, as the Flashes learned the hard way in their 47-14 loss at Kentucky.
“Darius had a tough game at Kentucky — like many of the guys on defense did,” Heacock said. “So for him to come back and play the way he did the next game against Buffalo, it speaks volumes about his character. He has tremendous personal pride and he took the Kentucky loss very personal. Of course, it wasn’t all his fault. Everyone had a hand in it. But he felt it was all on him and he came back and played great.”
With Wolfe likely out for another month or so, Polk hopes to continue his two-way success Saturday, when the Flashes (2-1, 1-0 in the MAC) host Ball State (3-1, 1-0) at noon at Dix Stadium.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Kent State blog at http://www.ohio.com/flashes. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.