In a matter of days, South Fort Myers senior Andre Polk will go from high school graduate to college freshman.
The standout safety will early enroll at the University of South Florida on Thursday following a commitment to the Bulls football program in late November. It flipped from an early commitment to the University of Minnesota in early October.
He will sign his official National Letter of Intent Thursday inside South Fort Myers High at 1 p.m. His first college class begins on Monday. Then he’ll commute back to Fort Myers on June 4 for South’s graduation ceremony, which will be held at Alico Arena at 7 p.m.
“I want to make sure I’m passing everything, that I’m academically eligible,” said Polk, whose signing will precede National Signing Day on Feb. 3. “I just want to be on the field playing. I don’t want to sit out. I already had enough of that.”
Polk, who sat out the first five games of his senior high school season due to a suspension for an in-game scuffle, committed to the Gophers on Oct. 7.
Three weeks later, citing health reasons, former Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill retired from the Gopher’s program. In November, nearly a month later, Polk committed to the Bulls, watching as USF finished out its best regular season since 2010 with four straight wins and an 8-4 record.
Polk said Monday his decision didn’t consider USF’s recent reversal as a conference bottom-dweller to a bowl-eligible program.
“Things can change,” He said. “They could have a great season one year and a horrible one the next and vice versa.”
But Polk did say he wants to get an early start on his college career. He wants to get a jump on academics, as well as his understanding of the Bulls’ playbook. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder will convert to the outside linebacker position.
“I think it gives me an advantage, because I already have a heads up on the plays I have to learn,” he said. “I have to get bigger, can gain some size and strength.”
Polk said it wasn’t the word of just one coach that brought him closer to home. It was the entire staff. He took official visits to Minnesota, USF and Iowa State.
He had interest from others, like Louisville, Marshall and Appalachian State. But at the South Florida’s satellite camp in June, he won a pair of gold cleats. The Bulls never lost interest in him, even after he missed the first five games.
Polk, a preseason News-Press Big 15 player, said the time off during the season ultimately gave him a sense of purpose. He watched the first five games from the stands.
“I learned you can’t take anything for granted,” he said. “You just have to think before you do.”
He finished the 2015 season with 35 tackles, three fumble recoveries (including a touchdown return), and three interceptions (also including a touchdown return). He played in just six games. The News-Press recognized him on the first-team All-Area Defense list.
“I actually felt like this was my best year ever playing,” Polk said. “After sitting out for so long, you can’t wait to get back on the field. So I just played way better.”
Polk, a three-star prospect according to 247 sports, will join a USF program that already features a handful of Southwest Florida alums: Immokalee’s D’Ernest Johnson, Jimmy Bayes, Deadrin Senat and Jaymon Thomas; Dunbar’s Ryeshene Bronson and North Fort Myers’ Marlon Gonzalez.
Polk’s signing will compliment other area commits like North Fort Myers linebacker Mi’Cario Stanley and Charlotte running back Elijah Mack.
His graduation will also signal a loss for the Wolfpack basketball team, which currently sports a 9-6 record. Polk was the team’s second-leading scorer heading into Tuesday’s game against Cape Coral with 14.3 points per game.