Powell's faith tested by missed season
Published: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 5:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 at 5:01 p.m.
With two ACL surgeries on the same knee within a five-month span and countless days and hours of rehab, Ronald Powell's faith has been severely tested over the past year. But it has not been shaken. Not even close. In fact, he says it is stronger than ever.
“It all comes down to faith,” said the Florida junior Buck linebacker/defensive end. “My faith is getting me through this.
“The things that happen to me in my life are things that are supposed to happen. I wouldn't trade any of it for the world. It's made me a better person, a better man. A stronger man.
“Everything I've gone through is something I was supposed to go through.”
Powell, the former national high school player of the year, has gone through a year that most football players (and almost any athlete) would consider a living nightmare.
A little more than a year ago, Powell seemed on the cusp of emerging as an elite defensive player for the Gators. But while making a tackle in the spring game, Powell sustained a torn ACL in his left knee that put his 2012 season in jeopardy.
Despite the setback, Powell kept the faith — and worked hard in rehab, determined to return at some point during the season. His rehab went so well, put him so far ahead of schedule, that by the end of the summer Powell felt comfortable setting a date for his return to the field.
“There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to run out of the tunnel for the LSU game (on Oct. 6),” he said.
He walked out on crutches that day instead.
In late September, the almost unthinkable happened. While going through a routine rehab session, Powell's left knee buckled. An MRI revealed the awful news: He'd re-torn the same ACL and would need surgery again.
His 2012 season was officially over.
The second surgery was performed by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who performed the same surgery on Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson at the end of the 2011 NFL season.
So, instead of returning to the field last fall, Powell found himself back in the training room and weight room, going through rigorous rehab again and planning another comeback.
“(Injuring the knee the second time) was a lot harder, a lot harder to deal with,” he said. “But I've been able to overcome it by just being positive and attacking it. It was something I've got to get through, so why not try to attack it, try to make the knee better than before?”
Despite the potentially devastating setback of a second surgery, Powell has remained positive, and strong in his faith.
“My faith, first off,” Powell said, when asked how he's been able to cope so well. “My family, good people surrounding me, the Gator Nation, the family that I have here. Always staying positive like my teammates.
“On top of that, just trying to embrace it. It's something I have to deal with; I have no choice. It's not like I can say, ‘I'm not going to have an ACL (injury) today.' It's something I had to embrace. I had to make it a positive every day.”
His positive attitude, along with his work ethic, has helped him bounce back again, just like he did last summer. He said his rehab is right on schedule and his target return date is early August for the start of training camp.
“It's going really good,” he said. “My training staff and weight room staff are doing a remarkable job with me. We're moving forward every day.
“It's a daily thing for me. I can't say how many hours (I rehab a day). I come in and stay until it's done. I lock in until it's over with.”
Powell said his knee feels strong again and he's been running for weeks.
“I'm running, with lateral movement,” he said. “I'm doing a lot of different things. The one thing I'm not doing yet is cutting and turning and making that hard cut.
“I'll be ready (for the start of camp). Man, I'm really excited. I don't even know if excited is the word.”
Powell said he basically never stops thinking about what it will be like to run out of the tunnel on Aug. 31 for the season opener against Toledo.
“I think about it on my way to class. I think about it when I wake up in the morning,” he said. “I think about it after workouts, when I'm sitting on the couch watching television. It's something that's always on my mind.”
Powell said he's hungry to play again, play the game for which he has such a great passion.
“How much do I love football?” he said. “If they gave me a chart and said fill it out, one through 100, I would put 110 on the paper.
“Going through this, it makes me appreciate it even more.”
Powell's coaches and teammates are anticipating his return in August.
“Ronald has been doing an unbelievable job,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “That guy is incredible with how relentless he is with his rehab and how he works.
“He's been through a rough time, but he brings it. He brings it every day to his rehab. We fully feel he's going to be back strong and ready to compete when camp gets here in August. I know that's what he's shooting for and we know it, too.
“That guy. ... It will be a great day for all of us that know Ronald and coach him or play with him, when he's able to get back on the field because of how hungry he is.”
While Powell was working his way back to possibly playing early last season, he said he never considered the possibility of re-injuring the knee and needing a second surgery.
As he works his way back this second time, he said he realizes it could happen again, as unthinkable as the possibility may be. But he said he trusts that things will work out the way they're supposed to.
It's all about faith.
“(Fearing it could happen again) is something I've overcome,” Powell said. “If something comes along and it ends up happening again, I'm going to attack it just like I did the first time and just like I'm doing the second time.
“This is something I am going to overcome.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.