Up Close: Tydreke Powell

AHOSKIE, N.C. --- Much of the credit for signing Hertford County (N.C.) four-star defensive tackle Tydreke Powell rests with UNC assistant coach Ken Browning. He was the steady presence in Chapel Hill that eased the transition between two Tar Heel coaching staffs.

"Coach Browning was there from Day One," Powell said. "If he was not the coach there anymore, it would have hurt mighty bad."

When Davis took over for John Bunting on Nov. 8, Browning's future with the team was in limbo for several weeks. But the veteran N.C. high school coaching legend reassured Powell.

"He told me to just relax," Powell said. "He told me that there were some changes going on, but that I would be taken care of and not to worry."

Browning first met Powell when he visited UNC as a freshman. From then on, the two forged a lasting relationship, and Browning laid out a plan for Powell to succeed in life in addition to football.

Powell not only listened, but he took the message to heart. Powell trusts Browning perhaps more than any other male role model in his life.

"Coach Browning is a straight-up guy, and I love him to death," Powell said. "He's just like a father to me. When I talk to Coach Browning, it's not all about football. I mean I just love him."

Working hard in the classroom, Powell became an honor roll student. Many nights when friends wanted him to go hang out, he would simply turn off the phone, shut his door and study.

All Powell wanted to do was become the best football player he could, while making grades that would help to ensure his academic acceptance to Carolina.

Many big-time prospects hear the advice provided by parents, coaches, teachers and school administrators; Powell followed the guidance to the letter.

Bears assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator Scott Privott said, "Some kids start out kind of slow, but with the attention Tydreke got when he went to Carolina his freshman year…he just saw the light at the end of the tunnel. The [UNC] coaches started calling him, and he just screwed his head on straight."

Powell said, "Coach Bunting was a great guy, but the biggest thing I was concerned about was Coach Browning. As long as he was there, then I was there. If he would have left, I would have probably taken all my visits. But when I found out he was staying, and I met Coach Davis and the rest of the staff, well, I knew with them two together, it couldn't get any better than that."

With late-deciders like Marvin Austin and Greg Little grabbing the Signing Day spotlight, Powell's addition to UNC's class might have been slightly overshadowed. But Carolina football owes a great deal of its collective elation to the counsel Powell was providing behind the scenes.

An imposing figure at 6-3 and 283 pounds, and equally impressive through his maturity and intelligence, prospects like Austin and Little listened when Powell spoke.

"I started calling guys like Greg Little and said, ‘Let's bring something back to North Carolina,'" Powell said.

"Marvin and I talked about three weeks before Signing Day, and I told him, ‘We can turn it around on the defensive line at Carolina.' I said, ‘If you go away to Florida State, you're going to be about 13 hours away from your mother, and she'll never get to see you.' It's going to be real fun being around those guys for the next few years."

With the tandem of Austin and Powell, Carolina now has the potential to be as strong up the middle defensively as it has been in many years. Fans may have seen the last of opposing tailbacks running roughshod up the gut versus the formerly out-manned Tar Heels.

"I'm a little partial, but Tydreke is probably the best defensive tackle in high school football," Privott said. "He's aggressive to the football. Sometimes he does play a tad high, but he plays every play just as hard as he can."

Despite opponents gearing their offense with gimmicks or simply directed away from Powell, he still managed to record 11 sacks.

"We played at Southern Wayne last year, and they tried to trap him," Privott said. "He actually gave a kid a concussion. At that three-technique, it's going to be hard to run on Tydreke. And he pressures the quarterback real well. For a man his size, he's real light on his feet. His looks are deceiving. If you see him on the basketball court he runs up and down the court with great footwork.

"The sky is the limit potential-wise. I talked with Coach [John] Blake, and he said in three years, he thinks Tydreke could be a first-round pick."

So with his decision solidified, Powell has already received his spring workout regimen from the UNC coaching staff. He wants to be in the best shape he can possibly be to be ready for the summer conditioning program in Chapel Hill.

"I'm just glad the recruiting is over," Powell said. "It was fun while it lasted, but I'm just glad it's over now. Some people knew the whole while I was going to North Carolina, but I just wanted to go through the process while it was there."

Privott added, "He was the most humble one through the recruiting process. When the recruiters would come down here – I don't care if it was Chowan College – he would sit down and have a conversation with them. He's just so humble, and that's what is so exciting about it."

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