Cornell Powell has never considered transferring, though it would have been understandable if he did.
Since he arrived at Clemson in 2016, Powell has played with some elite wide receivers. Mike Williams was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Ray-Ray McCloud and Deon Cain were drafted in 2018 and Hunter Renfrow was taken by the Raiders in the 2019 draft. There was also Artavis Scott, who is now playing in the NFL, as well.
This year, Tee Higgins is expected to be a first-round draft choice and next year Justyn Ross will likely be in the same position. The Tigers also have rising stars in Joseph Ngata and Frank Landson and this spring freshman sensation E.J. Williams is in camp and is making plays.
“Nothing easy is worth having,” said Powell when asked had he ever considered transferring. “I feel like I wanted to earn everything I had. I could have easily gone somewhere else coming out of high school. I just felt like Clemson was the best place for me. It helped me develop on and off the field and being around guys, when I came in, Mike [Williams] was here, Artavis Scott and Hunter Renfrow and those guys. I just learned so much.
“I really feel like all four years equaled up to this last year. Everybody has to wait their turn. Coach Swinney always tells us Drew Brees did not start until the last season of his career, so I just feel like this is my time and I am ready to embrace it.”
So far, Powell is not just embracing the situation, but he is taking advantage of it. This spring he is working at all three positions … boundary, slot and field and, according to Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney he is leading the team in receptions through the first eight spring practices.
At some point in his career, Powell has played all three positions, so this year, he felt it would be a good idea to cross train at all three so he can be ready for whatever situation he is put in this coming season.
“When I first got here my freshman year, I played [field] then I switched to [slot] and then I worked a little bit of [boundary] last season,” he said. “So, naturally, I just learned all the positions. So, coming in this year, I put it as my No. 1 goal to just be able to run all three positions in case an injury happens or I am starting at a position. I just want to be able to get on the field and contribute to my team.”
Being versatile can also help Powell succeed at the next level and understanding the concepts of the plays.
“Every day, I come in here with the mentality of getting better,” he said. “This is my last year, so it is either now or never. So, coming in here with that mentality that I have to win today, regardless if I am at 9, 5 or 2, that really helped me out.”
So has Powell’s roommate … former Clemson receiver Diondre Overton. Like Powell, Overton cross trained and played all three positions for the Tigers last season. He caught 22 passes in 2019 for 352 yards and scored three touchdowns. He came in and made a big third-down catch in Clemson’s Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State after Higgins was banged up early in the game.
“Just seeing him come in every day and putting everything behind him, and controlling what he could control, that really helped me,” Powell said about his friend. “He is like my brother. We grew up together. I really leaned on him and he helped me out. Obviously, he is my roommate. We talk every day and he is giving me pointers on how he did last year, and it has really helped me out a lot.”
As for his career at Clemson, Powell has 40 receptions for 329 yards and three touchdowns in 42 games. He has also posted seven kick returns for 182 yards.
“It is going pretty well. I can’t complain with two national championships,” he said. “But I have a lot of individual goals that I still have that I want to achieve and I feel like this year I can step into another role on this team … being a leader, being a fifth-year guy and just come in and do my job and help the program and help the team in any way that I can.”
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