FINAL THOUGHTS: Powell's Performance in the Semper Fi Bowl
SANTA ANA, Calif. -- Lonny Powell isn’t a talker. Perhaps, it’s been to his detriment. He won’t promote himself. He doesn’t have an over-produced highlight tape set to the latest hip-hop or even generic rock music out on YouTube. In fact, his YouTube channel has four videos. The last one was put out eight months ago.
“Yeah, that’s just not my thing,” he says as he leaves the field at Santa Ana Stadium, following practice for the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl. “I just like to just play. I don’t like to go back and forth with trash talk, or all the talking. I just like to get in, get my work in, and when we’re off the field, then we can talk, but when I’m on the field, I’m just trying to get my work in.”
If that sounds familiar, it should. You see, Powell, when he first visited Berkeley, was christened by California running backs coach Pierre Ingram as Beast Mode 2. Yep, that Beast Mode.
His first day, on his first run, he stiff-armed a linebacker out of the way for an extra five yards. A few plays later, he battered a defensive lineman and a linebacker to bully his way into the end zone. On Wednesday, despite a heel injury, he hauled in a 40-plus yard touchdown pass off a wheel route in seven-on-seven work. He took a sideline wallop from a four-star Oklahoma commit Will Sunderland in the red zone, and promptly popped up to give Sunderland a high-five for a good hit.
“Lonny’s a pretty special talent, and I really like him a lot,” says Scout West Regional Recruiting Analyst Greg Biggins. “I know early on, I watched him a lot at linebacker, but I definitely like him as a running back. He’s that big, strong – obviously Marshawn Lynch would be the comparison, because he’s a former Cal guy – physical, downhill runner that can run with some speed and pad level. He’s a good-looking running back.”
In fact, Powell did play both linebacker and running back this past season, but don't ask him for his numbers. Not only does he not have them memorized, but he has absolutely no clue what they are.
“I really can’t remember. I don’t focus on the numbers. I just focus on getting a W at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter about stats. It just matters about wins for your team,” he says. “I forget sometimes who’s on my team. I’m trying to go a million miles an hour, and do whatever I can to get touchdowns so I can help my team, really.”
But, those numbers are just as impressive as Powell is on the field. He had 65 rushing attempts for 555 yards (8.5 ypc) with seven rushing touchdowns, 20 catches for 414 yards and 10 touchdowns, 95 tackles (including 62 solo stops) and he also tallied – wait for it – 36.0 tackles for loss, 22 sacks and 18 quarterback hurries. He also caused four fumbles and recovered three.
As many have told him, Powell plays running back like a linebacker. He just relishes contact, and that’s about it.
“I really don’t pay attention to all the hype, and all the social media,” says Powell. “That’s why, when everybody asks me if I have a Twitter, no, I don’t have a Twitter. I just have Instagram. I just post pictures; that’s all. I don’t really believe in the hype. I just want to play the game, and do whatever I have to do on the field to be successful, and not worry about anything else.”
It’s no wonder then, that such a physical, punishing back with an aversion to the limelight came to be called Beast Mode Part II.
“When I first went down there, when I went down there for the spring game, everybody was looking at me, and [Ingram] said, ‘Yeah, he’s going to be like Marshawn, so I’m going to call him Beast Mode.’ I was like, ‘OK, I’ll roll with it,’” says Powell. “I eat Skittles, before games, like he does, and then, it’s like, you can tell he’s just different. He stands out more, because he’s a little bit stronger, and he does a little bit more than everybody else, so that’s what I’m trying to be like.”
Strength is the name of the game for Powell. Even when he’s not actually playing a game. Take, for example, this poor backboard at Sacramento (Calif.) High School.
“I knew that was coming,” Powell grins, his stoic demeanor finally cracking. “Since we have football class, after our season was over, we went in the gym, and we were just hanging out in the gym, playing. I threw myself an alley-oop, and then I dunked it, and as soon as I dunked it, the glass just shattered.”
Powell hadn’t played basketball for two years.
Powell’s relationship with the man who christened him ‘Beast Mode Part II’ – Ingram -- has grown ever since that Spring Game offer, and the two talk frequently.
“We’re really close,” says Powell. “That’s the coach that I click the most with, out of all of them. He always makes sure I’m good. He really gave me the name Beast Mode. He knows what I can do.”
Powell has visited Berkeley three times so far, and will visit a fourth on Jan. 23, with the rest of the commits who have yet to visit. Though he hasn’t had the royal treatment yet, he still feels like Berkeley is more than a second home.
“It’s super close to home, and, instead of having to get on a plane and fly all the way back, I can just drive back, or my mom can drive up and see me and my friends, family, everybody can come up and see me, or I can drive back, because it’s not that far away,” Powell says. “I went to the spring game, then I went to the Sac State game, and I went down there, just because, one time, just hanging out. It’s close, and I had nothing to do. It was over the weekend, so me and a couple of my friends just drove down there. It was actually the week they played BYU.”
The Bears lost that game to the Cougars, a game which, had they won, would have meant Cal’s first bowl appearance since 2011. Powell acknowledges that it was disappointing, but …
“I know I’m going to try to get in there and contribute as much as I can when I get there,” he says, “ and try to get us into another bowl.”