Powell signs full scholarship to University of South Alabama
For the past four years, Georgiana head football Coach Ezell Powell has watched more than a handful of talented athletes exit the hallowed halls of Georgiana into a collegiate career.
But the Panthers’ latest signee was special not only as a coach, but as a father.
Georgiana senior Ezekiel “Zeke” Powell formally committed to the University of South Alabama, with a full scholarship in tow, in an auditorium full of his peers and family Wednesday morning at R.L. Austin Gymnasium.
Coach Powell said that, like any parent, he fostered hope that his son would reach the next level, especially due to how formative college was to his own development as a person.
“For him to have that opportunity and possibly live through some of those same lessons that will teach him how to be a man, a father and a provider in his life is fulfilling,” Powell said.
“To watch him grow from where he was to where he is now makes me very proud of him and the work he’s put in to get to this point.”
Grow is the operative word for Zeke. The 6-foot-4, 280-pound wunderkind towered over most of his opposition, regardless of which side of the football he found himself on.
As an offensive and defensive lineman, as well as a kicker, he played a major role in all three facets of the game for the Panthers. His physical acumen has always been something of a given, so a bigger focus was instead placed on perfecting his mental toolset, which means success in the arena of the classroom as well as the football field.
Coach Powell said that the mentality has started trickling down to a younger generation of Georgiana athletes.
“There was another young kid who’s in the 10th grade and he held up two fingers, letting me know that in a couple of years this is where he’ll be,” Coach Powell said. “That lets me know that he’s already envisioning himself signing when he’s a senior, and that’s what I want all of them to do.
Most of our parents don’t have the means for [their children] to just go and get a free education. But for many of my athletes, the good Lord has blessed you with the means to do it. You just have to take it, and nurture it the way it should.”
For Zeke himself, though he originally intended to follow in his father’s footsteps at Auburn University, he said that South Alabama offers certain familiar elements that were impossible to ignore.
“What made me decide was the atmosphere,” Zeke said.
“The brotherhood of the teammates and the family atmosphere of South Alabama is what made me really chose them. And the relationship I have with Coach Smith and Coach Siskey, who actually went to college with my dad, made it feel like it was another family away from home.”
Due to an ACL tear late last year and an subsequent surgery on Dec. 27, Zeke will miss both the basketball court and the baseball field in his final year as a Georgiana Panther.
South Alabama’s own doctors oversaw the procedure, and they said that Zeke would return to the field of play within six months, just in time for the impending football season.
“By the time I get to South Alabama, I should be back playing,” he added. “Basically, it’s rehabbing and working hard to get back to the same point I was at before.”
Zeke’s role will probably change a little from Georgiana to South Alabama. He’s expected to make the shift from offensive tackle down to offensive guard or center. Fortunately, his time as a Panther has well prepared him for the versatility required.
“I played everything at Georgiana—tackle, center and guard—so it won’t be much of a big deal to move in college,” he added.
And while Zeke anticipates a certain level of success at the collegiate level—his resume of the past four years is proof of that—what he didn’t quite anticipate was the role model status he would be granted as a full scholarship recipient.
He was handed the microphone nonetheless during his signing ceremony, where he delivered a rousing message to his peers and, more importantly, to Georgiana School’s youngest audience members.
“It feels great to be in this position, because I know I was one of them at one point, looking up to other people who went,” Zeke said. “They didn’t give me any information on how to make it, so I wanted to let them know that I’m here. Through classwork, hard work and all of that, you can make it here, too.”
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