Quinton Powell entered Sunday’s Nike Football Training Camp in Orlando with a chip on his shoulder.
He left with an MVP medal around his neck.
A phone call prior to the event lit a fire under the Florida commit.
“I got a phone call from my 7-on-7 coach and he was telling me that I needed to ball out because there was going to be a lot of eyes on me,” Powell said. “So I went in there with a chip on my shoulder. I felt like I needed to prove to everybody that I could play in space.”
The Daytona Beach Mainland standout was confident going into the camp, but he didn’t expect to walk away as the top linebacker.
“I never thought that I would have the opportunity to win the MVP of it,” Powell said. “It was an eye-opening experience. I didn’t expect to win the whole thing at my position. I knew I was going to do the best that I could. But that was something that didn’t even cross my mind.”
The eye-opening experience ended with an invitation to ‘The Opening’ — an annual invite-only Nike camp for the nation’s top prospects. It takes place in Beaverton, Ore., and will be held July 5-8 this year. UF commits Kelvin Taylor and Ahmad Fulwood have also been invited.
Powell is privileged to be part of the elite group this summer, but what he’s looking forward to the most is taking a trip to the ‘Beaver State.’
“It’s important to me simply because of the opportunity to go to Oregon,” Powell said. “Other than Florida, my finalists were Oregon and Miami. But Oregon never offered me, so I thought I wouldn’t be able to visit. So to have the opportunity to go and see a place I’ve never been to, it’s exciting.”
Part of Powell’s success Sunday was a product of him being coachable.
“I have the ability to listen to what coaches say,” Powell said. “And that’s key when you’re trying to get better. At these camps, you’re there to learn what it takes to be great. So I took in as much information as I could from the coaches and did whatever they wanted me to do.”
The Nike camp coaches put Powell through various position drills, 1-on-1 battles and 7-on-7 competition. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder said none of the workouts were hard, but he was able to improve his foot work and speed.
“Nothing was a challenge,” he said, “but I did get something out of the running portion (of the camp). We learned proper technique and what we need to do to improve our speed. So that was something new to me, and it helped.”
That was evident during the pass rush drill between linebackers and running backs. Powell held his own against the likes of Oklahoma commit Greg Bryant and Ryan Green, the camp’s RB MVP.
“I’m not trying to boast or anything, but I did good in every matchup,” Powell said. “It got to the point where one of the coaches just kept calling me up every time somebody good got their turn (in the drill). All I heard was ‘go against him, go against him.’ He wanted me to face all the top players. By the time I finished my last rep, I knew that I had done well.”But the best part of Powell’s day wasn’t the invitation to The Opening, his dominance in drills or MVP honors.
It was an interception.
“The first pick I got,” Powell said, “that was the highlight of my day. As soon I got that pick, I felt like all the weight was off my shoulders because everybody noticed me. I play defensive end in high school, but playing in the dirt is not the only thing I can do. I can drop back in coverage and I showed that.”
Powell’s performance was nothing new to ESPN scouts covering the camp. The four-letter network ranked the four-star linebacker No. 109 in last week’s initial ESPN150, which is the highest ranking he’s received from a recruiting service.
Powell isn’t a member of the Rivals250 and is No. 299 in the Scout300. But those rankings don’t faze someone who grew up admiring ESPN.
“For them to have the most interest in me and rank me so high, it’s a big accomplishment,” Powell said. “That experience of seeing myself on the top 150, it was amazing. My dad came and told me ‘you’re on ESPN!’ So I got to watch it on TV. It was crazy because I’ve been watching ESPN since I was kid, and I never thought I would actually be on there. So that meant a lot. And as long ESPN recognizes me, the other (recruiting services) don’t matter to me.”