Prior to 2020, Cornell Powell had not started a game at Clemson. He never caught more than 15 passes in a season and had no more than 122 yards. He had just three career touchdowns, though he played in 42 games.
So why is Powell considered a possible Day 2 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft next month?
Because he does not know the meaning of the word quit.
It would have been easier for Powell to transfer to another school and show off his talents there, the former Clemson receiver stuck it out and waited for his turn. His patience paid off in 2020 as he took advantage of some unexpected opportunities and became an All-ACC wide receiver.
Coming into the 2020 season, all the talk was about sophomore receivers Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson. With Justyn Ross out for the year due to spinal surgery last June, it was expected those two would pick up the slack and become the next big stars at Wide Receiver U.
But both suffered through nagging injuries and their progression in the offense never materialized. Instead, Powell became a starter, and the senior did not waste his opportunity to proof what he could do.
He ended up starting all 12 games for Clemson, while hauling in 53 passes for 882 yards and seven touchdowns. Powell had just 40 career receptions for 329 yards and three touchdowns prior to 2020.
“I knew I had to, honestly, go get it and be a difference maker out there,” Powell said. “Go out there and showcase my talent. It was my last go-around.”
Powell really introduced himself to the sports world at Notre Dame, when he hauled in six passes for a game-high 161 yards and one touchdown.
“I just went in there and attacked each day, each practice and each workout as such,” Powell said.
Powell ended up putting up numbers that only Clemson greats Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins have been able to obtain. His performance at Notre Dame was the second of three straight outings in which he topped 100 or more receiving yards in a game.
He also had a career-best 11 catches for 105 yards against Boston College the week before Notre Dame and six catches for a career-high 176 yards and a touchdown against Pittsburgh following the Notre Dame game.
“It is never really about attention. You just have to put your head down and work,” Powell said. “You are going to get what you earned. You can’t deny film, you can’t deny work and you can’t deny tape. So, it just motivates me, not just prove anybody wrong, but just kind of prove myself right.”
At Clemson’s Pro Day on March 11, the Clemson graduate added to his resume by running a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash, while also impressing scouts, coaches and general managers with an impressive workout all together.
“I knew I had the abilities and I knew I belonged on this level, so every day I just worked towards that and I just tried to be one percent better,” Powell said.
Now he has a chance to hear his named called in the NFL Draft. It is a good thing he did not quit.
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