Ole Miss' Powe means business

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Spend any amount of time around Ole Miss defensive tackle Jerrell Powe, and you’ll invariably hear his pet phrase.

You know what I mean?

It’s his way of making sure he’s getting his point across.

And that point entering this season speaks for itself: He means business.

“It’s been a long time coming for me as far as the last time I was in this kind of shape and felt this good going into a season,” said Powe, whose battle to gain his eligibility from the NCAA lasted as long as a lot of players’ careers do.

Now a junior, Powe plans to show everybody what all the fuss was about. He’s down from 385 pounds to 324. He’s already been through the SEC one time, and he’s not nearly as rusty as he was this time a year ago.

Powe, who first signed with Ole Miss in 2005, had gone two years without playing football while tangling with the NCAA over his eligibility and admits that he was just treading water for much of last season.

“When you stay away from football as long as I did, you lose something,” Powe said. “You’ve got to get back out there and get a feel for the game again. It takes a while, and that’s what I was doing last year.

“It was a lot like I was learning the game over again.”

Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said Powe was a different player this preseason and is a big reason the Rebels open the season Sunday at Memphis with one of the most imposing defensive lines in college football.

“You just love his attitude,” Nutt said. “He’s always been positive and up, even in his quiet way and even when he weighed 385 pounds this time last year. This guy has fought the fight, and he’s seen everything through. I think he’s going to be a tremendous football player.”

Equally important to Powe is paying back Ole Miss for sticking by him. A Waynesboro, Miss., product, he’s a homegrown boy (man). Even as one of the highest rated high school defensive linemen in the country back in 2005, his heart was always with the Rebels.

“I just want to help put Ole Miss football back where we haven't been in a long time,” Powe said.

Rarely has any player’s academic background been as publicly scrutinized as Powe’s. There was the infamous line from his mother where she was quoted in legal papers as saying he couldn’t read. There was also the incident in April when he was cited by police for a noise violation and reportedly told the officer that he couldn’t sign the citation because he couldn’t read.

That’s not to mention being shot down twice by the NCAA after failing to qualify academically out of high school and spending a year at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy.

“I’m very motivated, and I’ll use everything that’s happened to me as motivation,” Powe said. “Nobody really expected me to be here, to get into school. Everybody doubted me, and a lot people bad-mouthed me. Even that little incident that happened not too long ago and got into the papers … I didn’t say that the way it came out. I haven’t forgotten any of it, and I plan on proving a lot of people wrong.”

Nutt said Powe has gotten a bad rap, but it’s a rap Powe could care less about.

“It really doesn’t matter, because if you know me, you know the capabilities I have and the kind of person I am,” Powe said. “People are going to think the way they want to think. The ones that want to think negative, let them think negative. The ones that want to think positive, let them think positive.

“If people think I can’t read, let them think that. I’m just here to get my education and to help the football team I love.”

And you know what?

He means it.