When Luis Polanco arrived at Western Kentucky University in 2009, the former Middleton High School left tackle was joining one of the doormats of Division I Football Bowl Subdivision college football. In his first two seasons, one of which he was red-shirted, the Hilltoppers went a combined 2-22.
But Western Kentucky has risen from those ashes. With Polanco starting at left guard, the Hilltoppers have won a combined 14 games the last two seasons and last year went to their first bowl game in program history. Western Kentucky also had record performances rushing the ball, in thanks to Polanco opening holes for the running backs.
"The team is just growing and coming together," Polanco said.
Polanco is spending his summer in Bowling Green, Ky., preparing for his final season of college football. He is not big for a college lineman - listed at a mere 292 pounds - instead relying on technique in his battles against defensive linemen.
"I was 260 in high school, now I'm 290. It was hard at first," Polanco said. "In high school I had a good coach who taught me a lot of technique. They call me 'The Techtition. ' "
Maybe the biggest adjustment for Polanco has been the amount of film he has studied. While at Middleton, he said they looked at film maybe once a week. In college it is a daily process.
"Here in college, this is a job. You study film every day," he said. "It allows me to learn. No one wants to go in unprepared."
This past season Western Kentucky went to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to play the eventual national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. While the Hilltoppers lost 35-0, Polanco said it was a good experience and he was ready for the moment.
"To me it wasn't that big of a deal. I was ready for them," he said. "It's a good atmosphere to play in front of so many people."
Polanco will be finishing his degree in civil engineering and plans on following a career path in construction once his playing days are done.
"I put things in God's hands," he said. "My degree is important to me. I get interested every time I look at a building and think about how it was made."