Tyvis Powell is living a dream.
The redshirt-sophomore safety and Bedford, Ohio, native, who came to OSU in 2012 as a top-100 defensive back according to ESPNU, committed to the Buckeyes when Luke Fickell was the interim coach in 2011, amidst the Tattoo-Gate scandal.
Powell said Monday that it didn’t matter who the coach was, he was set on being a Buckeye from day one.
“This is a dream. You’re not going to give up your dreams. No matter who is the coach, you grow up your whole life and you watch one certain team, and you root for this team all your life, that’s where you want to go,” Powell said. “Your heart is always going to be with that team. The only place I felt like I would give 100 percent effort all the time would be here.”
Once in Columbus, however, Powell said he had thoughts about leaving OSU after being redshirted in 2012.
“My redshirt year I struggled a lot,” he said. “Adjusting to college and everything, watching everybody else, all my teammates that came in with me were actually playing and me being a redshirt, it was kind of frustrating. I had some doubts about even being here in the first place, I can honestly admit that.”
Powell said a talk with his high school coach Sean Williams helped him to realize OSU was the right place for him.
“I had a serious conversation with my mentor, my high school head coach, about what I was going through,” Powell said. “He just kind of reminded me why I came here in the first place, and it kind of triggered some stuff off in my head. I just realized that if you really want something, you got to work for it. They are not just going to give it to you.”
Just a year later, Powell was appearing in games for the Buckeyes, starting five as a redshirt-freshman and totaling 48 tackles.
Powell said he stepped up his work ethic to earn playing time because he did not want to be just another footnote in OSU football history.
“People get here and they say, ‘Oh I arrived, I am just happy with being here.’ I kind of fell (in) with that a little bit, but then, like, I wanted more,” Powell said. “I wanted to be known, I wanted to make plays.”
His biggest play as a redshirt-freshman came against Michigan when he stepped in front of a pass from then-redshirt-junior quarterback Devin Gardner on a two-point conversion that sealed a 42-41 OSU victory.
The play is considered by some to be one of the biggest plays in recent OSU history, but Powell said he was only thinking about one thing when he made the catch.
“I just thought it was something that would help get my seniors get their last pair of gold pants,” Powell said.
The gold pants being an accolade Buckeyes receive following a win over Michigan, in the form of a small charm that usually bears the players initials and score of the game.
Now a redshirt-sophomore and a full-time starter, Powell has made his presence felt again this season as he is currently second on the team in tackles with 40 and is tied with three other players for first on the team for interceptions with two.
The second interception proved to be one of the biggest plays of Saturday’s game against Penn State as Powell dove in front of a pass from sophomore Christian Hackenberg in the second half of a 31-24, double-overtime win.
Cornerbacks coach and special teams coordinator Kerry Coombs said he was particularly impressed with the play Powell made.
“I thought that interception Saturday night was spectacular,” Coombs said. “Coming across the field, running in front of the receiver, laying out and making that play. That’s just typical of what Tyvis is doing right now.”
Heading into Saturday’s game against Illinois at Ohio Stadium, Coombs added that the improvement of Powell from last season to this season has been exceptional.
“I noticed, I think we all have, in Tyvis tremendous leaps and strides in this season,” Coombs said Monday. “Knowing that he is coming in, he is going to be a starter. There’s a difference when you are fighting to get a job and when you have a job. And he has got a job and so he can take another step, I think, in his development.”
Powell said his development has resulted in a practice drill being named after him by the coaches.
“We got a drill on Tuesday that he (co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Chris Ash) calls the ‘Tyvis Powell drill’ where we (just) tackle,” Powell said. “He calls it that, because at first I dreaded it, but now I love it. I embrace it. You got to embrace the things that suck.”
Now, being one of OSU’s leaders and having a drill named after him, he still credits Williams for helping him achieve his dream.
“At first I thought it wasn’t going to be a reality, but then me and my high school head coach came up with this plan,” Powell said. “I told him I wanted to come here, he said ‘Tyvis, you have the talent to get there and I can show you the way.’ He showed me some things, he created the work ethic inside of me that I didn’t know that I had and that ultimately helped me get here.”
Powell said being in Columbus was the only choice entering college, adding he would have walked on as a Buckeye before accepting a scholarship elsewhere.
“(It was) OSU or nothing,” Powell said.