Football notes: Practice, upcoming game help ease pain of Polk's loss

By Kyle Kensing
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Practice was an escape yesterday for athletes on the Arizona football team, who a day earlier lost a peer and close friend in women's basketball star Shawntinice Polk.

"Any time you can go out and do something you love to do for a couple hours, you get away," said Arizona head coach Mike Stoops. "Then you come back, and it's everywhere in the media and on campus, and it's something they have to deal with."

Arizona returns to action Saturday in Berkeley, Calif., for the team's Pacific 10 Conference opener against No. 12 California (4-0), and while the team is focused on a road upset, thoughts are also on Polk.

"You don't want to stop thinking about her," said senior safety Darrell Brooks.

Brooks said he and Polk shared a "close relationship" and would vent their athletic frustrations to each other.

Both California natives, Brooks and Polk arrived on the Arizona campus in 2001 and were friends from then on.

"It's hard. A lot of us miss her already," he said. "I've been seeing her every day for the last five years."

Stoops touched upon the bond that many members of his squad and athletes from Joan Bonvicini's women's basketball program share.

"This is something very tragic," he said. "Players were very close. It's going to leave a lasting effect on us."

"You feel what (the women's basketball team) is going through," he said. "We've just got to support the program and (Polk's) family."

Brooks said that when the Wildcats take to Cal's Memorial Stadium Saturday at 4 p.m. in a game televised nationally on TBS, they will be playing in Polk's memory.

"Every day, she wanted us to do well," he said. "You can go to the extreme and not even do it for yourself. Play for the love of her."

Brooks said the support Polk showed the football team will remain with the unit throughout the season.

"She was always right there, after every game, to pick us up," he said. "And you've just got to play with that spirit in your mind."