Powlus will be the second most important person on the Notre Dame staff, next to head coach Charlie Weis, in evaluating the quarterback race to replace Brady Quinn. Junior Evan Sharpley, sophomore Demetrius Jones and freshman Jimmy Clausen are all in the competition to take the snaps on September 1st in the opener against Georgia Tech. Powlus knows first hand what a high-profile position being the Notre Dame quarterback entails and that the three signal callers should be ready to take advantage of the situation.
"I think it's real important that these guys take their opportunities seriously," Powlus said. "They have to handle themselves in the best manner in order to compete. Different guys have different strengths. Different guys have different personalities. Different guys have different leadership style. I've expressed that they need to stay true to themselves. That's where I can relate because it's a wonderful opportunity to be the quarterback of Notre Dame."
Relating to the three quarterbacks was a big factor in Weis's decision to hire Powlus back in early 2007. Peter Vaas, after spending the past two seasons as the quarterbacks coach, was not retained and now coaches at Duke in the same position. That opened the door for Powlus, who was already working in the Notre Dame football office, to come down to the field and have the chance to coach.
"I felt that what these guys really needed was a mentor, somebody who's actually lived the experience that they're about ready to go through," Weis said on Monday. "Brady had already been hardened when I got here. It wasn't quite the same. But these guys are pups. They're young and they're inexperienced, at least at this level. And I think that Ron having walked the walk and talked the talk, I think that will be an invaluable addition and complement to what I do."
Powlus was one of the biggest recruiting gets for Lou Holtz coming out of high school. At Berwick High School in Pennsylvania, he racked up the accolades. In 1992, Powlus was named Parade Prep Player of the Year and the USA Today Offensive Prep Player of the Year.
"I was very fortunate to play at a high school level that gave me a pretty good transition to this world," Powlus said. "My junior year I had attention, pressure and we were ranked No. 1. All the way through, I was touted as the Player of the Year and my coach was the Coach of the Year and we won 15 games.
"All the attention I got in high school was familiar to this but on a higher level. Being on all the time, having everyone worry about what you're doing and what you're saying, who you're with and how you're playing and what throw did you make and did I scratch my nose or pick my nose….some people might call that pressure. It was just attention. It's part of the job. When you accept the scholarship to this university, you're accepting that responsibility."
Powlus's Notre Dame career had its ups and downs. The lows were the injuries suffered in 1993 with a collarbone break and in 1995 with a broken arm. Still Powlus threw for over 7,600 yards and 52 touchdowns between 1994-97 but never led the Irish to that all-important national championship. The expectations and the media crush on him was intense. But that fits in with the job description of taking snaps for one of the most storied programs in college football.
"There were high expectations and, sure, things were said," Powlus said. "But that's life as the Notre Dame quarterback. You're in the spotlight. People get to say what they want to say. Opinions come and go. That's life in this position. It didn't bother me then and it doesn't bother me now.
"I imagine it probably can bother someone. I told our guys not to listen to what the media says. They're not in practice all the time. You try to separate yourself about what is written and what is being said. I hope they have high expectations of themselves. I hope they have a little pressure on themselves. That's part of being a competitor and what it takes to compete on a national stage with the whole world watching."
High expectations are part of the game with Notre Dame and Powlus hopes that the three signal callers currently in the competition embrace this aspect.
"I hope that any quarterback who comes to Notre Dame has high expectations and wants to lead the team," Powlus said. "High expectations are part of the game. That's why you come here. You come here to play and with the whole world watching. That's part of the fun."
As far as the media goes, Sharpley, Jones and Clausen could learn a thing or two from Powlus on the art of deflection. Powlus handled the media's questions with ease, even though reporters wanted to find out about Clausen's talent or Jones athletic ability or Sharpley's experience.
On a question about being anxious to see Clausen throw, Powlus responded that he was anxious to see all three throw. On another about the difficult opening schedule of games, Powlus couldn't name another opponent on the slate other than Georgia Tech. The Irish quarterbacks coach knows how to give the standard answer. Powlus also knows that the race to start behind center is as intriguing as it gets at Notre Dame.
"It's real, real exciting," Powlus said. "Notre Dame nation, the university and the fans are very fortunate for the quarterback that just left here in Brady Quinn. But Brady isn't here. We have guys competing for this job and it's fun to watch them gain confidence and have things click in their head and get it. It's fun to help them get there."