RENTON Tyvis Powell quit football before his junior year of high school. He didn’t see anybody getting college athletic scholarships at his school outside Cleveland, so his plan was to just get a job around town.
That, and lay around playing video games.
"All he did was play ‘Madden,’" Bedford High School coach Sean Williams said Tuesday of the uber-popular NFL video game, by telephone from Powell’s hometown in Ohio.
"I said, ‘Let’s work! Instead of playing the game let’s get you ON the game."
Monday, Powell called Williams. He just about shouted to his old and ongoing mentor.
"I’m ON THE GAME!" Powell exclaimed.
Yes, Powell is in the NFL. He is one of the most unlikely Seahawks. His dream on which he briefly quit in Ohio became a reality on Sunday in Seattle. He played 15 special-teams snaps and assisted on a tackle during Seattle’s 12-10 win over Miami in the 2016 opener.
Powell made his own place on the Seahawks’ roster for Sunday’s game at Los Angeles.
He grew up in Bedford without a father. Robin Powell raised three children as a single mother; Tyvis is three years younger than brother Tashaun, who is three years younger than sister Tiashia. Their mother went to graduate school and worked two jobs, as an assistant in a medical laboratory and tutor to local medical students, while Powell became a 3.1 student at Bedford High.
"I got a Master’s of Education degree when they were still young, so they could see what getting a degree looked like," Mama Powell said Tuesday evening after work in Ohio.
"All my kids had perfect attendance in school, even if they were sick. If they were sick the office would call me. It developed Tyvis’ work ethic."
Williams became his mentor and father Tyvis never had. He took over as Bedford’s coach before Powell’s junior year, just as Powell was quitting football and only playing video games.
"We woke up at 6 a.m. every day. I would do the weight room in the morning," Powell said of Williams. "I would work out at 6 a.m. from November, just after my (junior) football season ended all the way up until I walked out of there (in June 2012). Then in the afternoon we would drill – even while I was playing basketball.
“I thought that playing basketball I would get out of the drills. He said, ‘No, you are going to drill, as well!’"
Williams played at Ohio University and briefly in 1999 with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was the "yes" man in Powell’s world of "no." He saw a 6-foot-3 defensive back who could run like a track star and catch like a wide receiver.
He saw what no one else did.
"It was people continuously putting him down, telling him he didn’t belong," Williams said. "They kept telling him he couldn’t do it."
After Williams revitalized Powell’s love for football and pursuit of a scholarship, Powell told him he wanted to play for Pete Carroll at USC.
"Of course there was no response," Williams said of the letters and calls to the Trojans. "Of course Pete Carroll’s not going to respond to some kid from Ohio they’d never heard of."
Oregon at least contacted Powell when it told him no thanks.
And everyone else told the tall, gangly teenager he could never play at mighty Ohio State.
Undeterred, Powell and his coach made the two-hour drive south to Columbus each week. They kept showing up, unannounced, at Ohio State’s football offices.
"I called it ‘reverse recruiting,’" Williams said.
"I was down there every, single Saturday – even when they didn’t have anything going on. I thought, ‘I’m going to put him in their faces so much they have to take this kid.’"
Then-Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel did.
Powell’s mom proudly says Tressel told her he will never forget her son shoving his grades in the coach’s face, to show he not only could play but could learn, too.
"No one had ever dropped their report card on him," Robin Powell said.
Two coaching changes later, Powell intercepted Michigan at the goal line to send Ohio State to victory over its hated rivals in November 2013. He was the defensive most valuable player of the 2014 national-championship game.
He was a Buckeyes captain in 2015. He graduated in 3½ years with a marketing degree.
Yet he went undrafted this May.
"This was better," his mom said. "He got to choose (as a free agent)."
Minutes after the draft ended Carroll finally called Powell back – five years after Tyvis had called him.
Powell chose the coach for whom he’d been wanting to play since high school. He signed with Carroll’s Seahawks.
But he still had to make the team in loaded, veteran secondary renowned as the “Legion of Boom.”
He had an impressive August with standout preseason games at safety, cornerback and on special teams. Then came Sept. 3, the league’s day for final preseason roster cuts.
"I sitting there all day Saturday staring at my phone. ‘Just don’t let that phone ring! Don’t let that phone ring!’" Powell said.
He was so stressed he was punching the air and berating his silent phone.
"If you are going to do it, do it already!" he yelled out loud.
"Then I was like, ‘Look, they didn’t call my phone! I don’t know what this means. But I think it means that I made it!’
His phone never rang.
"I tell you what, if I could go back in time I wouldn’t trade it," Powell said from his new, deep-wood paneled locker next to Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and the rest of the Seahawks. Seattle’s luxurious, plush-carpeted locker room is the size of some houses.
"This is like the best situation a person can be in. You go undrafted, what it does is, it makes you work harder."
Powell and the Seahawks’ six other undrafted rookie are at the bottom of the NFL’s rookie ladder. Germain Ifedi, by comparison, is at the top.
Seattle’s 31st-overall choice got a $4.2 million contract with guarantees of $6.69 million. The team’s starting right guard currently out with a sprained ankle, Ifedi has a four-year contract with a fifth-year team option as a first-round draft choice.
Powell? He could earn $450,000 this season, the league’s minimum salary for a rookie player. And that’s if he stays on the team for all 17 weeks of the regular season.
Powell’s guaranteed money: $0.
"All those other people, not saying they don’t, but some people get the money up front or whatever they are doing, first-round picks, they think they are on top of the world – where they lose their hunger, you know?" Powell said, meaning the league in general and not Ifedi; he’s been a beast since Seattle’s first rookie minicamp in May.
"With me, coming out undrafted, I feel I have to prove myself every day. Even though I’m on the team …"
Powell snaps his fingers.
"…they can still cut me and I’d be gone -- like that. So I still have to come in and prove myself every day.
"And I’m getting some of the greatest coaches, just with the secondary that’s here."
He looked to his right. Sherman and Kam Chancellor were at their lockers preparing for a recent practice.
Halfway across the country, his mom swells with pride.
"Everybody all over town, in the grocery store, they congratulate me about Tyvis," Robin Powell said. "I already have his Seahawks jersey. I wear it everywhere.
"I asked the team store if they have Tyvis’ in a neon-green jersey (which the team unveiled Tuesday for its "Color Rush" home game Dec. 15 against the Rams). I’ve got to get his neon jersey!"
And an entire town celebrates the Seahawks’ new No. 40.
"He’s my best friend," Coach Williams said. "That’s the honest-to-God’s truth, as a grown man.
"I just can’t tell you how much this community loves him.
"This kid was not supposed to play at Ohio State. He was not supposed to be the team captain at Ohio State. He was not supposed to be in the NFL. He was not supposed to play for the Seattle Seahawks in the ‘Legion of Boom.’
"But he is."