“Harding football really is a brotherhood. It has the greatest level of diversity on campus, and the guys would do anything for one another,” former Harding football player Ty Powell said. “As players, we worked on taking care of one another. I still have a very close bond with all of those people and will travel a long way to be with them.”
Powell began his football career at Harding in 2011 after transferring from De Anza College in California. He played two seasons for the Bisons at multiple positions, and was drafted in the seventh round by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2013 NFL draft.
“I’ve always enjoyed any opportunity to help my team win,” Powell said. “During my last eight years of playing football, I played six different positions. Playing defensive end at Harding gave me the opportunity to start each play closer to the guy with the ball, which meant less running to go get it.”
As a defensive player, Powell spent a lot of time under the wing of then defensive coordinator and current head coach, Paul Simmons.
“Ty had offers to every Division II school in the country,” Simmons said. “But he told me that he came to Harding because we had what he was looking for. He really wanted to be a part of a brotherhood.”
Powell said that while he was playing football in California, he was faced with different challenges, but football was not one of them.
“My time playing in California was a bit demanding,” Powell said. “The part that was not demanding was showing up for school, playing football and all the other aspects of being accountable as a student athlete. The demanding part was the fact that for a whole year, I drove approximately 140 miles each day to be that student athlete. But that was just a minor sacrifice. I had a mission to complete, and the adversity raised my level of determination and intensity.”
Simmons said that Powell’s work ethic and intensity were obvious from the moment he came to Harding and stepped onto the field.
“From the first time he stepped on campus, it was pretty obvious that we didn’t have anyone like him,” Simmons said. “He was a tremendous talent the second he stepped foot on campus and on the field. He really can do anything.”
After moving to the defensive end position, which he had never played before, Powell started catching the eye of nearly every NFL team.
In Powell’s last year at Harding, he led the team in tackles for loss with 12, had 8.5 sacks and had a school-record four blocked kicks. He was also a Second Team All-America honoree, and his talents got him invited to the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2013.
“Ty came to us as a free safety, but there was some discussion among the coaches to move him to defensive end, so we did,” Simmons said. “That fall, I think we had 31 of 32 NFL teams on campus to see him. It really is amazing what he did. As a division II player, he played defensive end one year of his life, and he was good enough to get drafted.”
Simmons added that while he thinks Powell is the most talented person to ever come through Harding, there is one thing that really stuck out to him.
“The thing that stands out to me about Ty, even though he might be the most talented guy that has ever been at Harding, is that before every game, he would walk the sideline, he would seek out every coach on the staff and he would stop and say ‘thank you’,” Simmons said. “We were the ones that thought we should be saying ‘thank you’ to him.”
Powell was the first Harding football player to be drafted to the NFL since the Denver Broncos selected Bruce Baldwin in the 1983 draft. The Seattle Seahawks drafted Powell in the seventh round of the 2013 draft, and he went on to win a Super Bowl with the team.
“When I was a young kid, I walked past a TV and saw a college football game,” Powell said. “Right then, I knew I would play the game. From the first time I put on a helmet, I have believed that I could play at any level. One of the first things I remember telling coach Simmons was that I plan on playing in the NFL.”
Powell was later picked up by the New York Giants where he spent some time on their practice squad, and was then picked up by the Buffalo Bills, and was added to their 53-man active roster. He appeared in 19 games for the Bills and recorded 23 tackles and one sack. He missed the entire 2015 season due to a torn ACL, and elected to retire from football in 2016. He is now the strength coach at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.
“The journey that this brilliant game took me on was my own fairytale,” Powell said. “It gave me more than what I could give it, and I gave it everything I had. The doors it has opened for me have been unbelievable. There’s nothing left but to pay it forward to let the next young man looking to give all he has, unselfishly. Then do it again for someone else.”