Chris Polk has dealt with his share of hardship. In one of his earliest memories with his mother, Polk is three years old, his brother is five, and his sister just a baby.
"She used to be studying for her nursing classes and we were living in the car," Polk said in an interview with Texans Radio. "So, she would park under a street light, and feed us hot dogs from 7-Eleven and would stay up all night studying. I'll never forget the day she got her nursing license. She changed our lives. Just seeing that. When you're young, you don't realize how much your parents do for you."
Polk is still incredibly close to his mother. The duo was a major storyline in this year's HBO's "Hard Knocks." He credits "Mama Polk" for his work ethic and drive to succeed in professional football. She works as a registered nurse in Anaheim, CA, but travels to Houston for all the Texans home games.
On Sunday, Mama Polk saw her son reach another milestone. The fourth-year running back got his first career start against New England. It's been a long, tough road for him, but Polk doesn't take a single day in the NFL for granted.
"I did not wash my jersey," Polk said, laughing. "I'm not washing it, I'm going to frame it because that was my first career start. I've been waiting on that since I got into the league. Even though we didn't win, I would like a win over that, but I was still blessed to get my first career start so it's only right to save the jersey and frame it."
During his first three seasons in Philadelphia, Polk played behind starters like LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, and Felix Jones. After being the primary back at the University of Washington where he rushed for over 1,000 yards in three different seasons, Polk had to adjust as a rookie in the league.
"Day One, it was kind of hard but I really got to sit back and you know, it's a blessing," Polk said. "Just to be in the same room with those Pro Bowl running backs, I was in a gold mine as far as information. They taught me so much about the game. Even now, the things that LeSean, Darren, and Arian (Foster) taught me, I still use and incorporate it today."
Even before he got to Philadelphia, Polk was rated one of the top running back prospects in the country. He racked up 4,049 yards on the ground for the Huskies, the second-most in school history. He expected to be drafted and to begin his NFL career like many of his peers. However, many teams were scared off by potential injury concerns with Polk.
"I'll never forget I was one of the top three running backs and they took three running backs in the first round," Polk said. "They took Trent Richardson first, Doug Martin, then David Wilson. After that day, I knew something was up. Something was wrong. They said it was a question of my shoulder or whatever, but God-willing, since I've been in the league, I've never hurt my shoulder. I've never missed a practice nor a game and had 800 carries in three years. But, it's still something that came up that people didn't want to take a chance on me."
Polk described the 2012 NFL Draft as the worst three days of his life. Afterwards, Sporting News even ranked Polk as the No. 1 undrafted prospect among free agents.
But Polk looks back on it with no regrets. None of it. It's all a part of what made him who he is today.
"I love what I do," Polk said. "I treat every carry like it's my last because you never know when this ride is over. I really just try to give it all every time, every day."