Powe's dream lives

Ole Miss DT Jerrell Powe has been on a long and winding road, but the grade is no longer as steep because he's finally academically eligible for the 2008 season. Read about his journey inside.

To paraphrase The Beatles - "The long and winding road that leads to your dreams. . . . "

OK, so I took some liberties there. . . who cares?

Jerrell Powe has been on that road for what seems like forever and he has survived a grueling, public test of perserverance.

At the end, he achieved eligibility to pursue his dream - to play college football at Ole Miss and then, hopefully, to extend that dream to the NFL.

Not many fully grasp what Jerrell has endured to reach step one of his quest and I'm not sure I can express it strongly enough.

The ultra-talented defensive tackle prospect withstood a couple of painful rejections, a year at a military prep school, two years without the sport he loves, public scrutiny, a litany of naysayers, and, yes, public humilaition brought on by thoughtless comments by people who didn't even know him. He was labeled with tags I won't even repeat.

Strong people would have quit. Weak ones would have disappeared or mentally perished.

Not Jerrell. He stuck.

He kept a positive attitude and he cleared all hurdles against long odds. All the while smiling and never complaining about his ordeal, which at times didn't seem fair at all. He kept his dignity when some around him lost theirs with ridicule and little regard for his feelings.

But still he remained on the long and winding road. Determined.

Yesterday, after three years of trying, his efforts were rewarded. Trust me - it couldn't have happened to a more deserving kid.

Congratulations to Jerrell and all those who stuck by him shoulder-to-shoulder, resolute, and supported his efforts, even when there was no end of the road in sight.

I'd name them, but they didn't hang with Jerrell for the recognition. They stayed for real reasons, because they care about him.

With the toughest hurdle cleared, it seems like smooth sailing now, but in reality his trials and challenges will continue, starting all over in a week when August practice begins.

Waynesboro HS Coach Marcus Boyles knows what is facing his prize player.

"I've coached a couple of guys who have made it to the NFL. Jerrell has that kind of ability. In high school, the bigger the game, the better he played," said Boyles, an ultra-successful prep coach. "He has a rare combination of power and speed, but what separates him is his desire. On the field, he will not be denied. Double teams, triple teams, it did not matter. His desire put him over the top. I think that showed in his efforts to get eligible. I don't know anyone else who would have gone through what he has been through to get where he wanted to be."

Now Jerrell moves up a big level, which is a daunting mountain for anyone, but Powe faces a double whammy. He'll not only be going against the best collegiate players in the country, he hasn't played football in over two years.

"Jerrell is going to be rusty, no doubt," continued Boyles. "I hope Ole Miss fans are realistic about his Rebel career. It will take him four, five, six games to get in a groove, but once he does it will be worth the wait."

Powe had to overcome all his academic issues, but he also had/has physical issues to resolve as well. In the last six months, he has lost roughly 45 pounds, his body bloated from inactivity up to 386 pounds. In February, he was so heavy and out of shape he had to work out with trainers who monitored his heart rate rather than with strength coaches.

This summer was a grind for the big man, but midway through he seemed to get his second wind. He started making all his conditioning runs and he's only 10 pounds over his target weight of 330 pounds, which should melt off in the August heat once practice begins.

After what he has already been through, it would be foolish to bet against him, but his road back continues and the path will not be an easy one.

The scrutiny will continue. The pressure to perform in the classroom and on the field will intensify.

Jerrell will have to prove himself, quite publicly, just like he has been doing for the past three years. His task is far from over.

Jerrell traversed and conquered stage one of the long and winding road and all involved should be happy about that. Powe's story is the American dream - want something badly enough, and work hard to get it, and it will happen.

The dream now takes on new dimensions, but at least it continues.

Thank God for that.

Keep the dream, Jerrell.

In a very tangible way, you are an inspiration to all of us who aspire to improve our lives.

Thank you, big man.

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