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Rose alum Powell in title game

010917CornellPowell

Clemson and former J.H. Rose wide receiver Cornell Powell attempts to get past South Carolina defensive back Jamarcus King during their game Nov. 26 at Clemson.

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By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector

Monday, January 9, 2017

At this time last year, Cornell Powell was a senior at J.H. Rose High School watching Clemson prepare to do battle against Alabama for a national championship.

This year, the Tigers are back in the title tilt, again with Alabama as the opponent. This time, though, Powell is along for the ride.

The wide receiver will be on the sideline — and, if he has his way, on the field — tonight when Clemson and Alabama lock up for the crown for the second straight year. Kickoff is scheduled for shortly after 8:15 p.m. from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Powell and the Tigers arrived in Tampa on Friday, where the program is seeking its first national championship since 1981. They fell to Alabama, 45-40, in a classic in last year’s game.

After arriving at the team hotel Friday, Powell said he planned to soak up an experience that only a select group of players get to have, while also balancing that with the fact that Clemson is there with a goal in mind.

“Just to enjoy it and have fun,” Powell said. “Normally, you only get to experience this once in a lifetime in college, so I want to make the most of it and when I get in the game, embrace my role and do the best I can to help my team win.

“For us, this is a business trip, so we’ve come down here and we’re going to keep our minds in the books, go out there and play against Alabama with all we’ve got.” 

It is the second straight year Powell will end his season on a championship stage. As a senior at Rose, he helped carry the Rampants to the 4-A state championship game. He tallied four receptions for 58 yards and produced two touchdowns — one passing, one kick return — in JHR’s 27-20 loss to Charlotte Catholic.

His role is quite different for the Tigers. Though he has seen action in nine games, Powell has registered just 12 catches for 87 yards as a true freshman. He set season and career highs in receptions (five) and yards (44) in a 26-7 win over Georgia Tech on Sept. 22.

Powell collected 65 catches for 1,557 yards and 25 touchdowns as a senior at JHR. That made for quite the adjustment at Clemson, where he has spent his rookie year watching Heisman runner-up quarterback Deshaun Watson rely on a corps of more experienced receivers.

“It was definitely big, just coming in here embracing my role and having to take a backseat to the older guys,” Powell said. “For me, it’s been fun and I’ve really been enjoying it. It helped my game and helped me mature. Just learning and getting all those mental reps from the older guys, knowing what to do and what not to do in big situations.

“I feel like, at this point in the season, I’m no longer a freshman anymore. I’ve had plenty of time to mature and learn from my teammates so I feel like I’m ready to go and whenever my number is called, I’ll be able to respond.”

If that number is called tonight, Powell will have plenty of loved ones there to see it in person. He said multiple members of his family are making the trip to Tampa for the game, including his mother and sister.

Though Powell said he is excited for his family to share in the experience of the championship game, that provides yet another special element for a contest the receiver said he is trying to keep in perspective. 

“It’s just another game,” he said. “After all the hype that’s been building up, it’s just another game that we have to win. Our team goal is to win the closer, and this just happens to be the closer of our season. If we continue to do what we have to do, we’ll win the closer and we’ll be successful.”

Contact Jordan Anders at janders@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 or follow @ReflectorJordan on Twitter.

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