MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Brian Polendey should try to work out an NIL deal with Greyhound bus lines, because he truly has traveled the USA from coast to coast.
Some of Polendey’s moves came because of his father’s job – he was a manager for UPS – and others came because Brian was looking for better football opportunities. That search has led him to West Virginia, where he hopes to cap his final collegiate season with a productive campaign at tight end.
“I played my first season of high school football in the state of Washington, but then halfway through my freshman year, we moved to the state of Texas,” explained Polendey, who developed into a three-star tight end at Guyer High School, which is in the northeast corner of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
Heavily recruited at Guyer, he signed with Miami (Fla.) over Arkansas, Colorado, Houston, Michigan and Illinois.
“I enrolled at the University of Miami in the spring of 2017,” he noted. “I spent three seasons there, and then I played two seasons at Colorado State, and then I transferred here in January.”
Now a super senior, the 6-foot-4, 252-pound Polendey has been known for his blocking in his previous stops. He’s caught just one pass in a regular-season game to this point in his college career, that coming during his sophomore season at Miami, which was cut short because of a knee injury. He transferred to Colorado State in 2020 and played in all but one game for the Rams over the past two seasons but left Fort Collins after the ’21 campaign looking for a chance to expand his role.
“West Virginia made the most sense for me,” said Polendey, who has one season of college eligibility remaining. “I saw an opportunity to become more of a complete player, and that’s what I was looking for more than anything.
“I want to be more of a balanced player and prove that I can do whatever I need to do.”
Certainly, West Virginia’s coaches saw an excellent blocker in Polendey, and that analysis played out through spring practice, where the tight end lived up to his physical reputation.
But the Mountaineers also saw a better pass catcher than they anticipated, including pulling in a reception for 10 yards in the Gold-Blue game while showing the ability to be a consistent catcher of the ball throughout spring practice.
“He’s caught more balls this spring than I think he has in his life,” said WVU head coach Neal Brown. “He’s improving as a receiver. He’s understanding spacing better, and his ball skills have improved.”
Make no mistake, though, Polendey’s biggest strength has been and will continue to be as a blocker.
“I love his approach,” added Brown. “He’s extremely physical, and he has great self-awareness. He’s not trying to be somebody he’s not. He knows he has to be an overachiever, and he knows his role on the football team.
“He’ll contribute a lot in the fall.”
Polendey received a lot of practice reps this spring, as WVU’s main starter at that position the past couple of years, Mike O’Laughlin, was rehabbing a knee injury. With O’Laughlin on the sidelines, Polendey got most of the work with the first team at tight end, though redshirt freshmen Treylan Davis and Victor Wikstrom were also part of the mix.
In January, Polendey arrived in Morgantown, sight unseen.
“My first time in West Virginia was when I moved here. I packed all my stuff up in a U-Haul and towed it out here,” he explained of his drive from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachian Mountains for the start of the spring semester. “I did it in two days. I took a pit stop in St. Louis. It was negative five degrees when I left Fort Collins, but I got here safely. It was snowing again when I got here, but it was nice.”
He’s settled in now, and even has a West Virginia driver’s license.
“I love it here,” Polendey said with a big smile. “I know all the people of the state have a lot of pride in West Virginia. It’s a great place.”
WVU is the third college Polendey has attended, but he’s quickly adjusted.
“My childhood prepared me for all the moves I had to make. Growing up, my dad changed jobs a lot, trying to better my family’s position,” he explained. “So, moving is nothing new to me. I actually enjoy it, because I got to see new places and meet new people. That’s brought me here, and I’m happy to be here.”
Brian’s road to West Virginia may be unusual, but so too was his road to football.
“Growing up, my dad wouldn’t let me play football. He wanted me to play baseball and be a pitcher,” Brian noted. “I’m lefthanded, and he was, ‘OK, he’s tall and strong, let’s get him pitching.’ I played baseball all the way until high school. My mom was the one, who after we moved again to the Seattle area, said, ‘Let’s get him into football, so he can make some friends.’ I started playing football and really liked it. Believe it or not, I decided I was done with baseball and wanted to concentrate on football. My dad was like, ‘OK, you have a frame for a tight end. Do you want to play that?’ I said OK, so I just put my head down and have tried to be the best tight end I could be and play football as long as I could play it.
“I feel I’m primed and ready to show all the growth I’ve had throughout my career.”