Oct. 2, 2001
The following story by FSU sports information student intern Katie Colleen Hughes was written prior to the shooting of Eric Powell on Sept. 16. The entire Florida State athletic family is relieved that Eric’s injuries do not appear to be life-threatening. It is everyone’s hope that Eric will be able to return to a normal life and as the story itself attests, Eric’s determination to be successful will surely give him the strength to make a rapid recovery.
Eric Powell wouldn’t call himself a “superstar,” but when he visits home, the neighborhood kids and old friends certainly make him feel like a hero for all of the obstacles he has overcome.
Growing up in the projects of Orlando, the young Powell was very small and didn’t have opportunities to play many sports due to his age and size.
“Some of the older guys had opportunities to play but were also getting into trouble,” Powell said. “I didn’t want to be like that, I felt like if I could just make it out of the projects, I’d be all right.”
Powell credits much of the influence he received on the playing field to his high school athletic director.
“Coach Pierce was very close to me my junior and senior years,” Powell explained. “He was always telling me to do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that. He was like my father figure. He knew that I had talent and he didn’t want me to waste it.”
After high school, Powell’s grades were still a bit low, so he moved on to Southwest Mississippi Junior College.
“I went to junior college, got my grades up, played good and eventually I got to be here,” he said. “Junior college is like a second chance. Coach Infield gave me that shot that nobody else gave me, he turned me around and made me a better player.”
Making the transition to a school the size and stature of Florida State wasn’t easy, but Powell felt he was young and that he could make a big impression. As it turned out, it would be just the opposite.
“Here, they know how to work hard,” Powell said. “They push you to be the best you can be and have a tradition of winning. It’s like all the pieces of the puzzle were there, and I fit right into it. It was like I was the missing piece.”
Although Powell felt he fit right in, nothing could prepare him for the emotions of playing at Doak Campbell Stadium.
“The first game, my mind was in the game, but I just couldn’t believe it … all those thousands of fans doing the war chant,” Powell said. “There’s always a certain point in the game where I just get chill bumps. I just get so pumped up. But when I get down into my stance, I’ve got to beat my man, I’ve got to do my assignment. The other 10 guys out there with me are saying the same thing to themselves, so if everybody’s doing their assignment, the ball shouldn’t move, or something big should happen. I don’t want to be the weakest link, so I’ve got to do my part and what the coaches ask me to do.”
Hard work and determination has paid off for this senior defensive end. After sustaining an injury to his shoulder last fall, he shared the award for Most Improved Defensive Lineman with O.J. Jackson this spring. Powell also received honors prior to his days as a Seminole, including being named the No. 1 junior college defensive end by ESPN Magazine, as well as being placed fourth on the Clarion Legend’s list of the nation’s Top 25 JUCO players. Powell feels the awards are great, but doesn’t like to get too caught up in the hype because he believes there is always room to improve.
After moving to defensive end this spring, Powell is also determined to stay in better shape, but also to reward himself for it.
“When I first came here, I was 295, then I lost a little weight when I hurt my shoulder,” Powell said. “When I was moved to defensive end, they don’t want you over 270, really 265. But after a few days of eating healthy, I feel like I deserve to have something. Chicken won’t hurt me that bad, because I work hard! It’s chicken and cheeseburgers and I love french fries.”
Many have told Powell through the years that he “won’t be able to make it,” but nothing gives him more drive than to prove them wrong. He is also motivated in other aspects. Powell wouldn’t deem himself superstitious, but he does mentally prepare for every game by reading Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want …” His mother is also a constant inspiration. The two talk before every game, and she even leaves messages on his answering machine during the game when he makes a great play.
“I always felt like I should be doing something better, but my mom never let me push myself too hard,” Powell said. “She’d tell me, ‘Baby, just be thankful that you were on the field.’ She always told me to thank God just for having the opportunity to show what I’ve got and not look down on myself. My mom and my sister and my grandma and little cousin, all four of them give me so much support.”
Overall, what really enthuses Powell is what will impact the rest of his life and what highlights playing at Florida State … no excuses.
“The one thing I learned here is there are no excuses for anything,” Powell said. “And really to work hard. It’s all about finding ways to do it when you think you can’t.”