Incredible Journey

HOOVER, Ala. - Michael Oher's story, The Blind Side, swept the nation, and rightfully so. It's an incredible story. But Jerrell Powe's rise to "fame" has been, in this opinion, just as inspiring. Read about it inside.

Sitting in the back of the room at Media Days when Houston Nutt was at the podium, I heard a reporter from the front of the room ask a question that opened up a floodgate of emotions.

"Can you talk about your reasoning of bringing Jerrell Powe to SEC Media Days when some believed he couldn't even get in college?"

I don't believe the question was meant maliciously. Jerrell's trials and tribulations just to get into Ole Miss were long, frustrating and well-documented.

But I do believe the reporter who asked it simply does not know the Jerrell Powe I, and thousands and thousands of Rebel fans, have grown to love. Yes, love.

Nutt answered said query with catch phrases like "classy, caring, big heart, leader, deserving." All true, but it only scratches the surface of the story of this miraculous journey.

In rehashing the events since I first heard the name Jerrell Powe, I well up with pride for him.

I'm not going to go over all of that again. Some of it, quite frankly, is embarrassing and painful to Jerrell, such as accusations that he could not read.

Jerrell Powe

But I will talk about how far he has come as a man, as a human being, as an important part of our football team and university.

Although football is the focal point and core of this story, it only touches on the meat of what Jerrell Powe is, and always has been.

A long time ago, I got to know someone in Waynesboro, where Jerrell is from, who started telling me about him.

He would tell me stories of this big kid who didn't have a lot of money, but had one thing everyone in that small town recognized and embraced - a big heart.

He told me about an elderly lady Jerrell really didn't know lost her husband to illness. Jerrell took it upon himself to go to her home, knock on her door and tell her how sorry he was, even though he barely knew the man.

He told me how Jerrell would look in on the sick and infirmed in town, white and black, and try to comfort them with his keen sense of humor.

He told me how Jerrell would come to his house, plop down on the couch and say "what's for supper?" as naturally as his own sons. He was always welcomed.

Then, I got to meet Jerrell while he was trying to get into Ole Miss, a trying time that would have broken lesser men.

How many of us would have lasted through that long rejection and denial? I would not have. I would have tucked my tail and gone in another direction. Not Jerrell. His mind was set and, by God, that was that.

Then, when he was finally accepted, his struggle with getting his body right after a couple of years of inactivity.

Sheer torture, but again, he stuck with it.

Jerrell Powe

He has kept his grades up despite a certified learning disability and against the predictions of many who said he could never pass college level class work.

I'm not going to lie and say I have never seen him down. He's human and he's faced many, many obstacles that would bring down anyone, but I can say without reservation that he always said, "but I'll be alright. I will make it."

And make it, he has.

All the way to the podium of SEC Media Days as a representative of Ole Miss.

All the way to preseason All-SEC.

All the way to one of the team leaders, maybe THE team leader.

All the way to good progress toward a degree.

All the way to 318 pounds from 386 just a couple of years ago.

All the way into every Rebel's heart.

It's an amazing, heartwarming story, as inspiring as The Blind Side, in this humble opinion.

It's so amazing, Powe even marvels at it.

"I don't say it much, because I believe in living in the present," said Jerrell after the media throng had left his table, "but I think about where I was and where I am now every day and I'm thankful.

"I am thankful I stuck it out, even when things looked really bleak. I am thankful for all those who helped me. I am thankful for those who stuck with me and believed in me. I'm thankful for everything."

And I'm thankful I know Jerrell Powe and can count him as a friend.

In my book, he's an Ole Miss treasure.

I can't say it any better than that.

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