RENTON Tyvis Powell walked back through the doors to Seahawks headquarters eight months after he got coldly sent out of them--all the way back to Ohio.
And the second-year defensive back got a hero’s welcome upon his return.
A superhero’s welcome, in fact.
Veteran Seahawks were hoopin’ and hollerin’ in their locker room, slapping him on the back at him being back with them this week.
“You would have thought I was like Richard Sherman or something coming back,” Powell said Thursday.
His grin was as long as his road into the NFL--and now back to Seattle.
In fact, Sherman was treating Powell this week, after he re-signed to the Seahawks’ practice squad. Treating him with a ride.
Powell may be the most popular practice-squad player in the league right now. That’s what the Seahawks signed him to on Tuesday, to develop him as a possible cornerback. They had waived him from their active roster in January.
“Even the fans,” Powell said, “I didn’t know the fans liked me like that.
“It was just very generous. Very generous.”
Powell was home last week--he grew up in the Cleveland suburbs without a father, and with a mother who worked two jobs and went to graduate school while raising him in Bedford. He’d been unsigned since his hometown Browns in June and then the Indianapolis Colts waived him before this regular season.
The Colts moved him around this preseason. Then they waived him off injured reserve Sept. 12, after he sprained the AC joint in his shoulder in their final preseason game.
“Safety and corner, safety and corner. So I never really got an honest look,” he said of Indianapolis.
He had faith God would place him back in the NFL.
“I knew He had a plan,” Powell said. “But I didn’t know it would be this good!”
He was one of the most unlikely--and most popular--Seahawks last season. His personality is as remarkable as his story of becoming an undrafted rookie free agent out of an Ohio State program he basically nagged his way into (more on that in a minute). Teammates loved him on the Buckeyes, just as they did on the Seahawks in 2016 when he played in eight games on special teams for Seattle.
He was inactive for the final four regular-season games. Then, days before the Seahawks’ playoff opener against Detroit the team signed veteran Devin Hester to fill an immediate need for a postseason kick returner. Pro Bowl return man Tyler Lockett had broken his leg weeks earlier.
To make room on their active roster for Hester for the playoffs, the Seahawks waived Powell. Last man on the roster equaled first man out.
“I was stunned,” he said Thursday.
Then Powell added: “I understood why they had to do it. It made sense. At that time, I wanted to win a championship here. If that was what it took for them to win, then I was for it.”
Not only did the Seahawks treat Powell this week like Sherman in his return, they are now having him play like their three-time All-Pro cornerback. Though he’s listed as a strong safety on their practice-squad roster, the Seahawks are working Powell at cornerback in this second go-round with them. He was a strong safety all last year, from May rookie minicamps until they waived him in January.
Seattle is without 2016 starting cornerback DeShawn Shead until at least mid-October as he recovers from a major knee injury and surgery. Veteran Jeremy Lane, who is also the nickel back inside, and rookie third-round pick Shaquill Griffin have been at right cornerback opposite Sherman in the preseason and the first two regular-season games.
Powell quit football before his junior year of high school. He didn’t see anybody getting college athletic scholarships at his Bedford High School, so his plan was to get a job around the Cleveland suburbs.
That, and lay around playing video games.
"All he did was play ‘Madden,’" Bedford High coach Sean Williams told me a year ago.
"I said, ‘Let’s work! Instead of playing the game let’s get you ON the game."
The day after he played in the Seahawks’ 2016 opener, Powell called Williams. He just about shouted to his mentor.
"I’m ON THE GAME!" Powell exclaimed.
The dream on which he briefly quit in Ohio had come true. He played 15 special-teams snaps and assisted on a tackle during Seattle’s win over Miami in the 2016 opener.
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 one evening last September 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--and told him no thanks.
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 and coach Urban Meyer to victory over their hated rivals in November 2013. Powell 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 in May 2016. 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.
Tuesday, he signed with them again.
“When it came back around this year and they called me (this month) and they said, ‘We want to bring you in for a workout,’ I’m like, ‘Heeeck-ie, yeah!’” he said, almost shouting inside the Seahawks’ locker he feels like he never left.
“I canceled everything I got going on.
“It’s a great opportunity again. Because were I’ve just been,” he said, thinking of the Browns and Colts, two of the league’s struggling teams, “it’s no place like this.”
Yes, he laughed again.