Powell lights it up for Redblacks
As a kid, William Powell liked watching fancy-footed Emmitt Smith, who drove NFL defences nuts with his intuition — the ability to dart in and out of traffic and follow his blockers.
But it wasn’t just the former Dallas Cowboys great that the Ottawa Redblacks running back patterned himself after.
“I liked watching different running backs, but I wouldn’t say I modelled it after anyone — it’s always been more instinctual for me,” said Powell, who has been on a tear during the past month; he has 835 rushing yards (in 12 games) with two regular-season games remaining. Next up is a Friday night showdown with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
A former soccer player, Powell said, “It seemed like it just came natural to me, I found I was able to elude tacklers. You have to be patient. I like to think I can see the whole picture happening in front of me. It’s like poetry in motion.”
Powell has become a major weapon for the Redblacks, doing what the team thought he could do when they signed him back in 2015. In that Canadian Football League rookie season, he ran for 447 yards on 76 carries in seven games. But the former Arizona Cardinal injured an Achilles tendon in the first pre-season game of 2016 and missed the year.
The first part of this season, Powell was in and out of the lineup, but he’s rushed for 530 yards in the past four games.
“This is the William Powell we were looking to get back,” said Redblacks coach Rick Campbell.
“He had a pretty devastating injury at the beginning of 2016. This year, he was just a bit nicked up and not quite healthy. We sat him out some extra time to get him to where he was feeling 100 per cent. When he’s healthy and going, he’s obviously a special player. “He has a very good feel for where the hole is and he also has the ability to make people miss in space. It doesn’t always have to be completely blocked up. He’s quick enough that he can make somebody miss. He gets the yards he’s supposed to, but he can also create something out of nothing.”
Like they did in their successful Grey Cup drive of a year ago, the Redblacks are keeping defences off balance with a mix of the run and pass game.
“William Powell has been a difference-maker for us,” said quarterback Trevor Harris.
“When our run game gets going, we’re difficult to stop. Later last year when Mossis (Madu Jr.) and Kienan (Lafrance) started going, that’s when we started rolling as an offence and we became difficult to stop.”
Powell has plenty of help up front. The offensive line, still missing Sir Vincent Rogers and Nolan MacMillan, is playing a big part in making it work.
“We have a great back, he’s probably the hottest running back in the league right now,” said Jon Gott, who will return to the lineup at right guard (shifting from centre) Friday after missing his team’s past four games. “Give him the ball, he’s been making great plays for us. This offence is coming together for us. When we get all our guys back healthy, we should be dominating.
“The credit has to go to the OC (offensive co-ordinator Jaime Elizondo), he’s believing in the run, he’s believing in the guys we have up front and we’re committing to it. It’s hard not to continue to run when you’re having so much success.”
Powell isn’t thinking about 1,000 yards or any of the other individual goals — it’s more about beating Saskatchewan, then Hamilton in two weeks and going into the playoffs with momentum. “I feel like the great teams have a balance — run and pass,” he said. “If we can keep that going, keep that balance, we’ll be a hard team to beat.” THE BIG CHILL: It’s supposed to be cold here Friday night at game time, with temperatures maybe dipping below 0 C. Asked if the cold is a factor, Harris answered: “I ran out on the field (Thursday), it’s going to be 3 degrees colder at kickoff, it’ll get to about 6 degrees colder than it is right now. It’s fine.” THE END AROUND: The Redblacks aren’t getting much respect for their game in Regina. All seven members of the cfl.ca panel picked the Riders to win. It was the only unanimous choice of the weekend — even Hamilton got two votes to beat Calgary ... Several offensive and defensive linemen got stuck in an elevator at the Delta Bessborough Hotel in Saskatoon on Wednesday night ... Speaking of the Bessborough, it’s said to be haunted. As the story goes, the haunting zones are the ballroom floor, third floor, eighth floor and in the stairwell. Some Redblacks players, including Ryan Lindley, Antoine Pruneau, Jon Gott and Jean-Philippe Bolduc, went in search of ghosts ... Establishing some momentum Friday is important for an Ottawa team that’s been inconsistent through 16 games this season. Said Harris: “We limped into the playoffs last year — at 8-9-1 — and won it all. As long as we can get in and we’re playing well, that will be huge for us going into the playoffs.”
Running back William Powell has become a major weapon for the Ottawa Redblacks, rushing for 530 yards over the past four games.