ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF)– There are football players from Rockford all over the NFL now. There’s also a coach from Rockford in the league, and he’s with the Chicago Bears. He’s Guilford graduate Carlos Polk.
Back in his Guilford days in the mid-90s, Polk was one of the most dominant defensive players in Northern Illinois Conference history at linebacker. His 453 career tackles were the most in conference history, and he had 26 sacks. In a playoff game against Bolingbrook he had 30 tackles. He was a USA Today All-American.
From there Polk shined at Nebraska. He played on the national championship team that won the Orange Bowl in 1998.
After that he played seven years in the NFL with the Chargers and one year with the Cowboys.
He has spent the last 11 years on NFL coaching staffs with the Chargers, Cowboys, Buccaneers and Jaguars. Now he’s in his first season with the Bears as the assistant special teams coach.
“Me and coach Eberflus, we worked together when he was in Dallas, so we had a relationship from there,” said Polk. “It was such a great environment and a great joy to work with him. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
Polk now works closely with Bears special teams coach Richard Hightower. They’ve known each other for years.
“We’ve run into each other with opposing teams, but we always had that respect. We’ll chop it up in the offseason hitting ideas off each other, and I always wanted the opportunity to work with him.”
Polk is a natural when it comes to coaching special teams. Twice he was the Chargers’ Special Teams Player of the Year.
“I always took pride in playing special teams. In the league everybody has to contribute somehow. If you’re not starting you’ve got to play special teams, and you should embrace that role.”
“Special teams is pretty much the most natural form of football. See ball, go get ball, bring me ball.”
In the NFL draft last month the Bears loaded up on guys who were strong special teams players in college. Polk is encouraged by their potential.
“We have so many great athletes out there that are ready to contribute as far as offense, defense, and especially on special teams. I’m so excited about this season.”
Polk was back in Rockford this past Saturday helping out with the Rockford Park District’s youth football clinic at the Indoor Sports Center. He has fond memories of Guilford and his Rockford days even though he was only in Rockford for three years while he was in high school.
“Some of my best friends, my best memories are still from Rockford. It’s great being back in the state of Illinois, being home.”
Polk’s mother and some of his cousins and aunts live in Rockford.