Powell continues to see fruits of his labor after sticking it out
Cornell Powell is not surprised by what he is doing on the field or how well he has played in recent weeks.
Clemson’s wide receiver has put in years of hard work to get to this point and stayed patient while playing behind plenty of stars at his position in past seasons. He waited his turn, and now that he has earned a bigger role, he is taking advantage of increased opportunities and making the most of them.
In the Tigers’ last three games against Boston College, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh, Powell totaled 23 receptions for 442 yards and two touchdowns. Nine games into the season, he ranks third on the team in catches (37), second in receiving yards (594) and is tied for second in touchdown receptions with four, all of which have come in the past five games.
“I know the hard work that I’ve put in these last five years, and it’s just a testament to everything that I’ve been through,” Powell said. “I expect to make plays like that, I expect to dominate every game. And if you don’t have that mentality going into the game, you really don’t need to be out there. So, it’s not really a shock to me. I work hard, man, Monday through Friday, to get to Saturday. So, it’s just good to see it finally pay off.”
Powell is coming off his best game in five years as a Tiger against Pittsburgh on Saturday when he torched the Panthers for a career-high 176 receiving yards, surpassing his 161-yard effort against Notre Dame on Nov. 7.
The Greenville, N.C., native scored on a 43-yard catch and run in the first quarter of the third-ranked Tigers’ 52-17 victory at Memorial Stadium. His yardage total was good for 10th-most in a game in Clemson history.
Making the career game even sweeter for Powell was that it happened on Senior Day in his final time wearing the Paw at Death Valley.
“It was definitely special for it to be my last home game,” he said.
Powell’s incredible performance included a spectacular one-handed grab from Trevor Lawrence down the field with Pitt defensive back A.J. Woods in tight coverage.
“You’ve just got to make the catch required,” Powell said of the highlight-reel play. “It was a great ball placement by Trevor. He put it where only I could get it. I just wanted to make sure I did my one-eleventh on the field, and it really started with the O-line having great protection and then Travis (Etienne) coming up and fitting the block. I just had to finish it.”
Powell became the first Clemson player to record back-to-back 150-yard receiving games since Sammy Watkins against Maryland and Virginia in 2013. It’s the third such instance in Clemson history, joining Watkins in 2013 and DeAndre Hopkins against Georgia Tech and Boston College in 2012.
On fire of late, Powell feels like he can catch any ball that comes his way, whether it’s the veteran Lawrence throwing passes to him or the phenom freshman D.J. Uiagalelei, as was the case in the Notre Dame game as well as against Boston College when he tallied a career-high 11 receptions for 105 yards.
“You just make the most of your opportunities – whenever the ball comes to you, you just go out there and you make a play,” he said. “And then you try to come in, stack one play on top of another and then one game on top of another, and that’s what I’ve been doing. But it’s not because of me, man. First of all, it’s all because of God giving me this ability and blessing me with the chance to come to Clemson, and then the offensive line and then having two great quarterbacks just throwing the ball. There’s not many college programs you go from the No. 1 pick in the draft, and then he goes down and your next man up is just as good.
“So, it’s just a blessing to have both of those guys back there. And to receive the ball from them, I’m honored to. So, whenever the ball is thrown my way, I’m going to try to make them look good.”
Powell played sparingly amidst a plethora of talent in Clemson’s receiving corps over his first four years as a Tiger and easily could have decided to transfer to another program where playing time would be more easily had.
Instead, he chose to stick it out at Clemson, trust the process and keep faith that his time to shine would come.
It certainly has.
“You’ve got to be confident in who you are,” Powell said. “You’ve got to keep the faith and keep trust in God that he has you here for a reason. I knew that I was at Clemson for a reason. Throughout my years, it was hard, but I learned how to compete, I learned how to become a better man and I learned how to handle adversity. So, just stick with it. It’s going to pay off, and it’s all in God’s plan, all God’s timing.”
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