Powell returns to field

Ronald Powell has worked hard to get back to playing again after a torn ACL kept him out in 2012.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Sunday, August 4, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 11:54 p.m.

Pardon Florida's Ronald Powell if he can barely curb his enthusiasm about the Gators opening preseason camp.

“I'm very excited,” Powell said. “I've been away from football for obviously longer than I expected and everybody else expected, but it was God's terms.

“It's not like I haven't been around my teammates, but I can't wait to get back on the field with them. It's a different feeling, a special feeling.”

Three years ago, Powell, from Rancho Verde High School in Moreno Valley, Calif., came to UF as the No. 1-ranked prospect in the nation by Rivals.com.

He was one of six members of the Gators' top-ranked 2010 incoming class to play in all 13 games as a true freshman, recording 25 tackles and earning Freshman All-SEC honors. He followed by starting 12 games as a sophomore in 2011, recording 32 tackles, three QB hurries and a forced fumble, finishing fourth on the team with nine tackles-for-loss (58 yards) and adding a team-high six sacks, earning third-team All-SEC honors.

But just when it looked like Powell was ready to step into his own, he suffered a torn ACL during the 2012 Orange & Blue Debut that resulted in him missing all of the 2012 season, the Sugar Bowl and all of 2013 spring practice. He received a medical redshirt.

“That's the longest I've ever had a break,” he said. “I'm really anxious, but I'm trying not to be. It's something I need to take control over because I don't want to get too anxious and go out and override my body. I need to stay healthy and stay smart. I want to get back out there and play with my team, make an impact and do the things that I think I'm capable of doing.”

Powell, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound redshirt junior, isn't the only one anxious.

“I know one thing; he's really excited to practice, and I may be more excited than him to see him on the field at practice,” coach Will Muschamp said. “I've been through this situation before with guys who have come back from injury. You just manage them through it, and sometimes with a guy like him, it's hard to manage it because he's going to want to go, go, go all the time, and there are days where we're going to shut him down and make sure we're preparing him the right way for a long season.”

Powell, who plays the Buck linebacker position, drew inspiration from Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who returned to action last year after suffering a torn ACL during the 2011 regular season and led the NFL with a career-high 2,097 rushing yards in 2012.

“My expectations every day are to be better than I was,” Powell said. “The article Sports Illustrated did on him (Peterson) when he came back from his ACL, that's up in my locker right now.”

The big-play ability of this big talent could be a big plus for the Gators.

“I have tremendous expectations for where he is,” Muschamp said. “His strength levels are very good and the knee is stable.

“He's worked extremely hard and is in good shape. He's worked as hard as any of our players have all summer to put himself in position to have a great year.”

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