It’s no secret that Ja’Lynn Polk can catch a ball. That was evident from the list of offers he received prior to his junior season.
That list included schools like Baylor, Minnesota Kansas State, Houston and Illinois. He eventually made the decision to join Texas Tech, a school known for producing top receiving talent.
It took him all of one play into his senior year to show he didn’t have a problem throwing it as well. After taking a lateral from QB Jordan Moore, he delivered a perfect strike to fellow receiver Christian Reggie. Eight-nine yards later, the Panthers were on the board.
“Before we went out there, Jordan, Reggie and me got together and said this play’s going to work,” Polk said. “It felt great. It was like we’d worked hard all summer and this was just the start of what we’re going to do.”
Once that play was over, Polk got back to doing what he does best as he proved to be a nightmare of a matchup even for the defending Class 6A DII state champion Lobos.
He finished the night with seven catches for 130 yards and a touchdown. In total, he had 219 yards from scrimmage to go along with two touchdowns.
“I’d say he showed up on Friday night,” Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said. “It didn’t matter what they did, he was going to make plays. That was a high profile game, but he’s been through the heat before. He was pretty level out there and played relaxed, which isn’t easy in a game like that.”
While it was just one game, Friday night’s performance went a long way to showing what Polk and the Panthers already expected and that other teams may eventually fear.
After catching 37 passes for 695 yards and nine touchdowns, Polk wasn’t just better for his senior season. He was exponentially improved.
“I just pushed myself all offseason,” Polk said. “On the days I didn’t want to be here, I’d push through it. The goal was to get better every day and eliminate the negativity. That’s what I pushed for.”
Evidently that work has paid off.
Even prior to that breakout performance, Quick pointed out the exact work he had put in during the offseason.
On Friday night, he put that work on display in front of a packed house at Abe Martin Stadium.
“He changed his body makeup,” Quick said. “The difference between being good and being great is the work in the weight room. He was already good last year, but that wasn’t enough for him.”
While Polk is quite a marvel on the field, he is also a quick study. He started playing football when he lived in Baytown during the fifth grade.
Prior to starting high school, he moved to Lufkin with his primary focus not even being on the football field. It didn’t take long for that to change.
“When I got here, I was more into basketball than football,” Polk said. “Once I started working at it, I knew I had to transform into the player I wanted to be, and that was all on me. I knew what kind of athlete I could be.”
Now that work is paying off on Friday nights this season. Next year, his skill will be on display on Saturday afternoons where he’ll work his way into the Texas Tech offense.
“He’s focused on what he wants and those goals go past just high school,” Quick said. “He’s grown up so much both physically and mentally.”
While Texas Tech fans anxiously await his arrival on campus, he still has plenty of work ahead of him while still wearing the purple of the Panthers.
“The main goal as a team is to make it to state,” Polk said. “We’re pushing each other to get there. Individual wise, I’ve got goals of getting 1,500 yards and 20 or 30 touchdowns.”
Those lofty goals would seem unattainable for many, but Polk has the mindset of a player who doesn’t see many limits for his senior season.
Now he’s ready to show the Lufkin fans exactly what he’s capable of.
“In the past, I’ve been down and had bad vibes, but I’ve changed,” Polk said. “I try to pick everybody up and be the guy they can look to. Whether it’s at school or on the field, I want people to look up to me. That’s really what it’s all about now.”