Newly signed New York Giants defensive back Joe Powell didn’t take the common route to the NFL, but he’s here now and ready to play ball.
When New York Giants rookie cornerback Matt Smalley injured his shoulder in practice, the team needed a quick depth replacement.
Luckily for New York, the timing of Smalley’s injury lined up perfectly with the conclusion of the Arena Football League season, making highly sought after Arena star Joe Powell an option.
The Globe Tech product will now look to battle for a spot with the Giants.
His emergence onto the pro football scene
Powell had put himself firmly on the radar for NFL teams following his 2015 rookie season in the PIFL (Professional Indoor Football League), as a member of the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks.
He earned League Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after a campaign which saw him put forth 52.5 tackles and 11 interceptions.
To produce such a gaudy interception total, Powell worked rigorously on his ball skills. He was so good at tracking and catching the football, the Steelhawks actually put him in at wide receiver for a half.
During his half as a wideout, he racked up over 100 receiving yards and added a pair of touchdowns.
After the stellar beginning to his professional football career, Powell was a highly sought after commodity.
Many Arena League teams wanted to bring him in, but he ultimately signed with the Cleveland Gladiators.
“By the end of the 2015 season, just about every AFL team wanted to bump him up to the next level,” said Powell’s agent Brad Berkowitz.
“In his first game with Cleveland he had two pick-sixs. In his second game he had two more interceptions, one of which he also took to the house from the opposite end zone at the last-minute.
So now through the first two games he has four interceptions, three of which he took back for TDs. I don’t think that has ever been done before in AFL history.”
The highlight machine Powell, needless to say, started receiving heavy interest from NFL teams. His fantastic performance in the indoor league’s had landed him firmly on their radar.
Powell’s NFL shot
Powell finished his nine-game AFL career with seven interceptions, four of which he brought back for scores.
He led the league in interceptions per game, interception return yardage per game, and touchdowns off interceptions.
In short, he was the best defensive back in Arena Football.
“As soon as his AFL season ended, I got calls from a bunch of teams,” said Berkowitz. “One team called, wanting him to workout on that Sunday, but then the Giants called and they said ‘right now, get him on a plane.’
His flight was delayed six hours, he didn’t land until about 2:15 in the morning, didn’t get to the hotel until three, and he had a morning workout. I was so worried thinking he was going to be so tired, but he did well. He got the job and he got signed.”
Powell tried out against several other free agent cornerbacks, beating them all out for the gig with the Giants. After his Wednesday workout with the team, he was on the field practicing the following day.
“It was great,” said Powell on his first NFL practice. “To be able to go out their and practice with guys I’ve watched on Sundays, and actually be able to go against some of those guys, was just a great challenge and a great opportunity to showcase my talents.”
Despite his relatively short stint with the team, Powell actually saw game action that Saturday in New York’s preseason matchup against the Buffalo Bills.
“He was there for just three days and he got in on special teams,” noted Berkowitz. “He got complimented on his special teams work by one of the coaches.”
What’s next for Powell?
With little invested in him by the team, Powell knows it’ll be an uphill battle to make the Giants’ final 53-man squad. However, that hasn’t been able to diminish the fact that he believes he belongs at the NFL level.
“I’m a very humble guy and I always put in all my effort,” said Powell on why he deserves to make this Giants’ team. “I’m one of those players you can bring into a organization and feel confident in.
I bring leadership, professionalism, and just a guy who is always ready to go. I’m always committed to getting better both on and off the field, I want to be a guy who will always be ready when called upon.”
He’s focusing on the goal in front of him and getting to work alongside guys who have played and competed at the highest level in this game.
Specifically Pro Bowl teammate Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, whom he says he has learned a lot from:
“I’ve been up under him as I try to learn the defense, try to learn the terminology,” said Powell. “Just as far as the various checks you make and the different formations in different situations, he’s been a big help for me trying to learn all of it.”
It’s a big step up for the former Arena League superstar, now trying to translate his success into the NFL.
The goal is to make the 53-man roster
Landing on a team’s final roster is usually a long shot for any non-veteran brought in midway through the preseason, yet don’t count Powell out.
“I came in on a short week and a lot of these guys are already way ahead in the game,” said Powell. “I’m just trying to come in and see where I can fit in.”
He’s a talented, ball hawking corner with big play potential any time he gets his hands on the football. He has a skill set that fits right in line with New York’s attacking defensive mindset.
It won’t be easy by any means for Powell to be on this Giants squad come week one.
Then again, nothing has come easy before for a guy who came up through Globe Tech, to Arena football, now finding himself on an NFL roster.
Joe Powell is ready for this next challenge.
*All quotes in this article were obtained directly from their sources by the author*