For Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and other Seahawks veteran starters, this week is a snooze. One more can-we-be-done-with-this-already preseason finale before the real games begin.
For Tyvis Powell, it’s a week of sleepless nights. It’s the biggest, most tense week of his 22-year-old life.
It’s NFL cut week.
“WHOOOO!” Powell said with a long exhale off the edge of the practice field before Seattle completed its first wave of 15 roster cuts down to 75 players on Tuesday.
“This week is definitely a tough week, mentally, because you know what is coming at the end of it.”
Monday, his emergence was part of the reason the Seahawks gave up on their experiment with Brandon Browner. The team cut the veteran safety, a starter during its 2013 Super Bowl-winning season.
Tuesday, Powell survived the rest of the first cuts. The Seahawks waived 2015 starting center Patrick Lewis and eight others — but not Powell.
The team chose former right tackle and left guard Justin Britt to be this season’s center. Lewis’ salary-cap charge would have been $1,671,000, too expensive to have as a backup. So Seattle is deciding between rookie sixth-round pick Joey Hunt ($450,000 cap charge this year) and backup guard-center Will Pericak ($450,000) to be Britt’s backup instead.
The Seahawks also waived running back Zac Brooks. That should make Powell even more nervous than he already is.
Brooks was, like Powell, a rookie — a drafted one at that. But Brooks missed most of training camp with a hamstring injury. Plus, the Seahawks didn’t need Brooks after Christine Michael proved he could be trusted to be Thomas Rawls’ primary backup at tailback this season.
Wednesday, Powell will be practicing again. A small detail to you, me and many Seahawks — but another mammoth victory to him.
Powell grew up without a father in the Cleveland suburb of Bedford, Ohio. His mother, Robin Richardson, is a single parent. She worked two jobs as an assistant in a medical laboratory and tutor to local medical students while Powell became a 3.1 GPA student at Bedford High School.
“After my 10th-grade year I was done with football,” he said. “I was like, ‘Forget this. I’m done with sports.’ Because nobody was getting scholarships out of my high school. So I was like, ‘Why waste my time?’
“Then we ended up get a head-coaching change. That’s when I met my mentor, still today.”
Sean Williams became Bedford’s coach — and Powell’s lifesaver.
“We woke up at 6 a.m. every day. I would do the weight room in the morning,” he said. “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!’”
During that grind, he drove the two hours south from Bedford to Columbus to visit Ohio State and its football offices — unannounced.
“I was just there to say ‘Hey,’” Powell said. “The first time I met (then-Buckeyes coach) Jim Tressel, I gave him my report card.”
The drop-in teenager, not even on Ohio State’s radar let alone an invite list, told Tressel: “Look at that. I’ve got the grades!”
Now that’s self-starting.
Tressel offered the persistent — pest? — Powell a scholarship in February 2011, then two weeks later resigned amid scandal. With no other college options, Powell committed to the Buckeyes the day after Tressel left. Tressel’s successors at Ohio State, interim coach Luke Fickell and eventually Urban Meyer, honored the scholarship.
Shocker: Powell took full advantage of that opportunity, too.
With coordinator Fickell heaping increasing leadership responsibilities upon him, Powell was the defensive most valuable player of the 2014 national championship game. He graduated in May 2015 with a marketing degree, then finished his junior season of football eligibility and declared for the 2016 NFL draft.
Powell watched through three soul-sucking days into early May as 32 teams drafted 253 other players over seven rounds.
The whole world could watch his agony. Before the draft, his agent made an agreement with GoPro for the self-camera company to film Powell’s wait by his phone for a call that never came.
“When I didn’t get drafted, I was telling the GoPro people, ‘I apologize. I know this isn’t the way the story was supposed to end, but it caught me off guard, too.’
“They were like, ‘That’s OK. It’s going to make a better story.’”
It did. GoPro’s cameras were still rolling when Pete Carroll and the Seahawks called minutes after the draft. They liked his size: 6 feet 3 and 211 pounds. They loved his ability to cover like a cornerback while hitting like a safety.
Powell jumped at the call. He knew Seattle had 26 former undrafted free agents on its 53-man roster last season, the most in the NFL.
“It was very rough getting here. Watching the draft, not hearing your name, it will break any man’s spirit,” he said. “You just have to learn from it. You just have to believe that God don’t make no mistakes.
“I feel like God put me here for a reason, and I’m just trying to maximize it.”
He made an impressive splash in the first preseason game Aug. 13 at Kansas City at safety, cornerback and on special teams.
“I was focusing on maximizing effort,” he said.
That focus and work are far from done.
Since then, Carroll and defensive coordinator Kris Richard have given Powell the DeShawn Shead treatment. That’s an honor on the Seahawks.
Powell, like Shead, is practicing at strong safety, free safety and at cornerback in the same practices, sometimes in the same scrimmage series. Plus, he’s all over special teams. That’s the way Shead first made the Seahawks in 2012 as an undrafted rookie from Portland State. Now Shead has a new contract as Seattle’s top nickleback.
Thursday, veterans such as Shead, Sherman and Thomas will likely barely play, if at all, in the final preseason game at Oakland. Secure defensive end Cliff Avril said he was “praying, praying, praying” he didn’t have to dress for exhibition on the Raiders’ dirt field.
Powell? Not only will he play, No. 40 in white will be all over the field on defense and in Seattle’s kicking game. It’s his final chance to impress, his last shot to show coaches his dream while overcoming those long odds back in Bedford should be real.
Saturday, he’ll find out. The Seahawks must trim their roster to 53 men for the start of the regular season that begins Sept. 11 against Miami.
Is he sleeping this stress-packed week?
“You know what? Last time I talked, I said I had a hard time sleeping,” Powell said, through a grin and chuckle of a man living his dream.
“Now, instead of counting the days I try to make the days count.
“I’m going to give it my best. And, hopefully I’m still here on Monday.”
Undrafted rookie Tanner McEvoy returned to practice after missing two days with a groin injury. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said he needs to see McEvoy block more to know if the recent wide receiver can be a viable tight end. … Ex-UW wide receiver Kasen Williams practiced for the first time in weeks. He’s had a hamstring strain. … The rest of those waived Tuesday: G Kristjan Sokoli, a 2015 draft pick who never successfully converted from college defensive tackle, LB Quayshawn Nealy and LB Pete Robertson. The Seahawks waived injured RB George Farmer, CB Trovon Reed and two former Washington Huskies, WR Kevin Smith and DE Josh Shirley. … If any of them clear league waivers, the team could possibly bring some back onto its practice squad. Seattle will form that after Saturday’s cuts.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle