June 21, 2024

Hogan: Polk Fitting in Nicely

It was like most other days at Toronto Argonauts training camp. Practice had just ended, and people had made their way up the College Avenue East hill from Alumni Stadium to Creelman Hall for lunch. Receivers coach and pass game coordinator Pete Constanza joined a gathering at one table sporting a gigantic smile. The reason? He had just seen the newest Argo receiver on the field for the first time.

“He’s got the things that you can’t coach,” Costanza recalled when asked about that initial glimpse of 22-year-old Makai Polk. “He’s got size, length, good speed, really good hands, and he’s a good route runner.”

Is that all?

“When you find that in a receiver it makes you excited right away,” the coach continued. “We just have to figure out if we can plug him in, teach him our system, and learn how to play winning football.”

There hasn’t been much time to teach.

The Mississippi State grad headed north, signing on May 20 after spending the last two seasons on the practice rosters of the New York Giants and most recently, the Baltimore Ravens. He joined the Argos midway through training camp, and with just 34 days of CFL experience he’ll make his second start in Double Blue when the Boatmen host Edmonton on Saturday night at BMO Field.

“Coming here and actually getting a chance to play in a regular season game and not just a pre-season game has helped me tremendously,” Polk told Argonauts.ca. “Before our game two weeks ago, I hadn’t played in a regular season game since college, over two years. Just getting that feeling of being out on the field again, getting the chance to play a kid’s game again, and being out there with my teammates has helped me tremendously.”

Polk had a remarkable redshirt sophomore season at Mississippi State. In just 13 games he set school records and with 105 catches, 1,046 yards, and 9 touchdowns.

His 105 catches led the SEC that year.

The Richmond, California native has a chance to recapture that glory with the Argos, despite his crash course in CFL football.

“He came in late, but he’s a smart guy,” said Costanza. “He caught on (to the offence) within the first seven-to-ten days. He started having a base understanding of what we’re trying to do. He’s still trying to learn the finer details of the offence, but he’s a smart football player and he’s picking things up really fast.”

Polk has needed to be a quick study. He started Game One, filling in for Damonte Coxie as an outside receiver, while this week he’s in for DaVaris Daniels as the slotback next to Coxie. Already, Polk is being asked to start at a second position, normally a big ask for a newcomer to the CFL.

“I wouldn’t say it’s super difficult,” said Polk. “It’s a challenge with any team having to learn multiple things, but I’m definitely taking on that challenge, willing to master any position they throw at me. I’m willing to learn that and do it to a ‘T’. Everything right now is going as planned.”

He was targeted three times by Cameron Dukes in the opener against the Lions. Polk caught all three passes for a total of 40 yards, with a couple of the catches coming on second down, giving the Argos the necessary yardage to move the sticks.

At 6’3”, and a shade under 200 pounds he presents a big target for his QB and knows that can play to his advantage as he increases his CFL knowledge.

“I’ve got the body type to play numerous positions,” he explained. “I feel like if you throw me anywhere, at any one of the positions at receiver, whether it’s X, Z, W, Y, or, R, I’m going to learn it and be able to play that and not just do good at it but do great,” he said, before adding with a smile, “I grew up as running back, so if I put on some weight I can play that too.”

He probably could, but first things first. Mastering the positions he’s being taught and helping the offence get through some injury problems will go a long way in establishing Polk as a bona fide CFL receiver with the opportunity to become an elite one.