Seahawks Insider Blog

This week latest challenge in undrafted rookie Tyvis Powell’s strong bid to make Seahawks

Tyvis Powell got talked out of quitting football in 10th grade. He grew up without a father. He basically nagged Ohio State into a scholarship. Now he’s on the cusp of making the Seahawks as an undrafted rookie.
Tyvis Powell got talked out of quitting football in 10th grade. He grew up without a father. He basically nagged Ohio State into a scholarship. Now he’s on the cusp of making the Seahawks as an undrafted rookie. AP

RENTON I’m from Ohio. Born and raised there. My parents are still there. My two sisters attended Ohio State. My wife, also an Ohioan, has a master’s degree from the school everyone outside of Oregon knows as the true OSU.

So, yes, I’m partial to Buckeyes.

But that’s not the reason I think Tyvis Powell is making the Seahawks, a development that’s become more and more likely over the last three weeks.

Not that he can think that right now.

Powell is an undrafted rookie. That means this, for him, is Hell Week. A week of sleepless nights. The biggest, tensest week of his 22-year-old life.

It’s NFL cut week.

"WHOOOO!" Powell said to me 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 Seahawks also waived running back Zac Brooks on Tuesday. 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 back-up running back 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 student at Bedford High School.

"After my 10th-grade year I was done with football," he told me. "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 life saver.

"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 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 Fickell heaping increasing leadership responsibilities upon him as his coordinator, 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 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, Jared Fox, made an agreement with GoPro for the self-camera company to film Powell’s watch and 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.

Go to the 10:00 mark to watch Powell’s struggling on deciding which free-agent offer to take.

As he said in the video, “Seattle was definitely the most competitive, the hardest to make the team.”

But he also 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 so far from done.

Since then Carroll and defensive coordinator Kris Richard have given Powell the DeShawn Shead treatment. On these Seahawks, that’s an honor.

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 a starting cornerback when the Seahawks are in nickel defense, which in some games is more than 60 percent of the time.

"They’re moving Tyvis Powell everywhere,” Seahawks three-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said. “So when he gets to corner (I’ve told him) just to be patient, get his hands on people. To be confident. To get his technique. To be in the right spots when he’s off or on the back side. Just getting assignments down.

"He’s doing really good. He’s getting it down really quickly. It’s always hard when, like Shead got done a few years ago, moving back and forth between corner and safety. But he’s taking it in stride and he’s growing every day."

Thursday, veterans such as Shead, Sherman and three-time All-Pro safety Earl 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? He will not only will play, No. 40 in white 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."