The former Darlington and Florida State punter had his football career flash before his eyes during his NFL debut with the Bills on Sunday.
“I got out there at the beginning to warm up and everything, but it didn’t hit me until I ran out of the tunnel,” said Powell. “I was sitting there, and all I could do — everything was replaying in my mind, how I’d gotten there.”
Powell mentioned Darlington head football coach Tommy Atha pushing him during his high school career. He also talked about former Darlington assistant football coach Jason Turner as someone who encouraged him to stay with football during a time when he wasn’t sure he wanted to continue playing.
Powell also focused on another influence.
“Greg Cater has been there since junior high,” said Powell. “I owe him a lot as well.”
Cater, a local pastor, also spent time in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills. He was the Bills’ punter from 1980-83.
“Then Florida State came along,” added Powell. “All those things just came into my mind, and it was overwhelming. I knew this was what I was working for my whole life.”
Atha wasn’t surprised by Powell’s success in his debut.
“It was just what you’d expect from Shawn,” said Atha. “He went out there and got it done. He was just a kid that didn’t get rattled and made big plays for us when he needed to, and that’s what he’s doing at the highest level with the Buffalo Bills. We’re tremendously proud of him and how he’s representing Darlington.”
Powell punted a total of five times during the 52-28 loss to the Patriots. He averaged 41.8 yards per punt and landed two of them within the 20-yard line.
“I had a lot of jitters because I didn’t know how I would do,” said Powell. “Then my first punt was on the 10-yard line. After that I fell back into my zone.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Powell. There was one downside to the game.
“The very last punt, I got a little lackluster and I threw my head up,” said Powell. “I wish I could have that punt back, but I know what I did wrong. I felt like I did very well for my first game.”
Powell’s father from Rome was at the game, along with his brother from Tampa, Fla. Some of Powell’s friends and former coaches met up at Applebee’s on Sunday to watch his debut.
“The city of Rome is just a great place to live and grow up,” Powell said about his local supporters. “All the people I’ve met there — I feel like everyone’s been very supportive. Even when I got released, everyone was like ‘You’re going to make it, you’re going to make it.’ It’s great to be able to do the things I’m doing. If you set a dream, you can do it.”