As the saying goes, the third time’s a charm, and Brian Polendey has traveled across the country hoping his third try is exactly that.
The tight end is no stranger to new places. He played his first season of high school football in Washington state and moved to Texas halfway through his freshman year. In the spring of 2017, he was an early enrollee at Miami and played three seasons for the Hurricanes. He spent the last two at Colorado State before joining the Mountaineers in January.
Polendey doesn’t mind moving. He enjoys meeting new people and building relationships along the way. After all, that is one of the reasons he was introduced to the game in the first place.
As a tall lefty with a lot of strength, Polendey’s dad raised him to be a pitcher. Baseball was his only focus until he moved to Washington, but at the start of high school, his mother suggested he tried a new sport. It was his instant passion for the game of football that led him to give up his first love.
“When we moved to the Seattle area, my mom was the one who said let’s get him playing football, see how he does, and make some friends. I started playing football and really liked it, and believe it or not, said I was done with baseball and wanted to focus on football,” Polendey said.
“People always laugh when I say that. They are like ‘man, usually, it’s your dad who wants you to play’. I’ve never been the guy who has a hundred friends. I’ve always had a couple of good friends. Football has given me a lot of good friends. My mom could always tell I needed to get out some energy when I was younger.”
His dad supported his decision and encouraged him to use the same thing that made him a good pitcher: his frame. He suggested his son give tight end a try. He hasn’t looked back since.
“My goal has always been to be the best tight end I can be and play football as long as I can play it,” Polendey said. “Regardless of whether it’s a knee injury, a minor ankle injury, whatever setback I’ve encountered, I’ve always just pushed on and kept moving.”
The grind has brought the 6-4 southpaw to Morgantown to finish his collegiate career, but it’s the brotherhood surrounding football that has reassured him he made the right decision years ago.
“I’d say mostly the comradery. Football is not a fun game if you aren’t playing it, you know what I’m saying? If you are training in the off-season, waking up at 5 a.m. every day, when you are lifting, when you are running. It’s not fun,” Polendey said. “But what is fun is going out there with your brothers in a stadium like this and putting it all on the line. That’s what it is for me. Putting it all on the line for everyone to see and doing it with the guy next to you. After you go through everything together, it’s a beautiful thing to come out on top.”
Polendey said the players on the current roster, the coaching staff and amenities helped solidify his decision to come to the Mountain State, but it was something that he wouldn’t have access to anywhere else that was a major selling point — the work of strength and conditioning coach Mike Joseph.
“The biggest thing is all the recovery technology they have here,” Polendey said. “I’ve been at schools and places where they have cold tubs and all that good stuff. Here with coach Mike in the weight room, it’s a whole new emphasis on getting your body right to play every day instead of having tonight fatigue and always having something hurting. He’s more geared towards getting your body right every day so you can perform to the best of your ability.”
The main thing that drew him to WVU was the opportunity to expand his game. In Texas, his high school program featured a play-action, run-heavy offense which helped him develop as a run blocker. When he got to college and played in a drop-back style of offense, he continued on in the same role, leading to limited catches on his resume.
He hopes his third collegiate stop will help him become a more balanced player, and with Mike O’Laughlin sidelined for the spring due to an injury, he’s already seeing those increased reps.
“It made the most sense for me honestly because I’ve been in systems the past three seasons that were going to keep me in the same role I have been in and here I saw the opportunity to become a complete player,” Polendey said.
A chance to prove himself at the position is what he was looking for when WVU recruited him. That led him to pack up UHaul and make a two-day trek to West Virginia without even a visit.
It may have taken him three stops over five years, but Polendey believes he finally found the opportunity he has been waiting for his whole career.
“I actually got my driver’s license updated here so I’m technically a resident,” Polendey said. “I’ve loved every minute here. I’m very happy to be here. I know the people of this state have a lot of pride being from West Virginia and I’m proud to say I live here.”