Fulfilling a Contract Signed in Blood

It's been a tough and emotional ride for one of Florida's big time defenders in the star-studded 2012 football recruiting class. Through it all, Jeremi Powell had his doubters, but he also had those that wanted badly for him to succeed. In the end, he had to do the work and Powell got it all done and will arrive in Gainesville on June 26th with the rest of Florida's freshman class.

With all of his football accomplishments and athletic records that Jeremi Powell left behind at Pinellas Park High School, the one that he wants people to remember him for is actually graduating from high school and doing so making the honor role in his final semester.

Powell had choices. He could have just put in minimum effort in the classroom like he did in previous years, or he could buckle down and do better and reach all of his goals.

His choices would have consequences. The best would be to finish very strong and complete his dream of being able to travel to Gainesville, Florida on June 26th and enroll at the University of Florida where he could play football. The alternative was to just finish like he started and he would likely have to end up somewhere else.

With a little help, he chose to follow his dream and that is what he wants folks to remember him for.

"I want to be known as a person that never gave up," Powell said. "I came a long way and finally qualified. I finished with a strong report card.

"I never made the Honor Role in my life. I always wanted to, but never tried. I had too much fun and was into the girls a lot. I had to take advantage of the once in a lifetime opportunity and I locked myself down."

As Powell continued, he stuttered a little bit as he thought about his opportunity lost. Powell actually took an extra official visit to Marshall in January just in case he needed that fall back option to his dream. What an opportunity lost it would have been.

"It is like one of the best feelings ever and it breaks me down," he said as his lip quivered a bit. "It really goes deep."

He was so nonchalant with school for so long that many of the folks at his school thought there was just no way he would make it to Florida. They never saw the will to fight in him for something like that.

"I had a lot of people at home thinking I couldn't do it," he said. "A lot of my teachers telling me I wouldn't make it to the University of Florida. The thing is, I accomplished it and now I can go back to my school next year and show them that I did it.

The teachers that had a problem with me, I had a few choice words, but I didn't (share them with them) and didn't want to be disrespectful."

For all the doubters there were several folks that really knew he could accomplish his dreams. Powell was so grateful to those that he made sure they knew it when the big day came, he walked across the stage, and became fully qualified to enroll at school in Gainesville.

"I wrote every teacher a letter that had my back," Powell said. "On graduation day I handed them the letter. I am pretty sure they cried, I got a lot of text messages (saying) that it touched them."

Two teachers went the extra mile for Powell and he feels like he owes so much to them. ‘Ms. Shawn' and ‘Ms. Holler' will always have a spot in his heart.

"I met Ms. Shawn my freshman year and she made all the good food," Powell said while smiling and seemingly smelling the food as we talked. "Every time we did something good she would reward us with cookies and stuff. There was a whole drawer full of junk food where I could have anything I wanted.

"The only thing is I had to come after school every day and study. I was there this last year every day until six o'clock after school. We get out at 1:55 and I was there until six every night."

Finding that teacher that will go the extra mile is something that has sunk into Powell and he knows he has a friend, confidant, and loving person to reach out to for the rest of his life. Ms. Holler was right there to and evidently another woman that the Pinellas Park should be proud to call their own.

"Ms. Holler is like my school mom," Powell said. "She is always there and took care of me. Every time I made the paper she took the articles out and hung them on the door. I had my own wall in her office."

Ms. Holler wanted Powell to succeed so much; she sat him down and convinced him to put down in words what he wanted. Then she spelled out what he was going to have to get done in order to make his dreams a reality. The reality of the seriousness of the plan was easy to see for Powell.

"She set me up on a contract," Powell said. "I had to come to school every day… I used to never go to school. I had to keep my eyes on the prize. I had to stay after school for tutoring every day. Then, I had to write it in red ink like it was my blood, it was cool."

At the end of it all, Powell met all of the requirements of the contract and the A-B Honor Role to boot. He met his dream goal and qualified to attend the University of Florida as well, but Ms. Holler went further. Powell had a huge proud smile on his face when he said, "At the end of the contract, she took me shopping and got me my clothes for graduation, and so I dressed up nice."

The University of Florida will have a ton of help for Powell when he arrives. Tutors and teachers that care, but also coaches that will help watch over them and make sure they progress toward their degree before they leave Gainesville.

In fact, while the final semester of high school was a great one for Powell, there was a bump in the road and it took someone he will get to know even better to get him past that hump. D.J. Durkin coaches linebackers at Florida and didn't sit idly letting Powell waste his dream.

"Coach Durkin is a man," Powell said shaking his head. "I was doing so well and just for one week I was messing up I missed a couple of days of school and had like three D's. They put my grades in the computer and Coach Durkin called my school, he called me, and he was there the next day. So, I never messed up again."

The academic thing has made an impression on Powell now Getting his college degree is not an option and it will happen.

"It is a very high academic school," he said of the University of Florida. "I just want to leave with my degree. I want to be in the medical field, like a paramedic."

He also plan to play in year one of his college career.

"I definitely want to play," he said. "I want to be on kickoff and rotate in the depth chart. If anything I am trying to get a starting position, WILL or SAM.

"Off the field I am going to keep it cool. I am not human when I am on the field. I haven't played football in a while, so I need to get rid of some anger. I am about to lose my mind."

He plans on leaving Florida with a legacy that people will remember.

"The things I am planning to do at Florida… I just want to be very successful," he said. "I want to be recognized. I have very big dreams of what I want to do. I want to be remembered like Tim Tebow… that's about it."

Just like another guy that had his doubters and overcame.

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