Kicking his way to a legacy

Powell was named Pac-12 special teams player of week three times, selected to all-conference team


ABBY TUTOR | The Daily Evergreen

WSU kicker Erik Powell talks about his decision to come to Pullman and explains why he chose football over soccer.

DYLAN GREENE, Evergreen assistant sports editor

Three steps back, two steps to the right. Line it up, take two steps forward and kick the ball through the uprights.

This is the routine of WSU redshirt senior kicker Erik Powell when his named is called on fourth downs to kick a field goal for the Cougar football team.

Powell said he treats every kick the same no matter the distance or situation, even if it helps put the Cougars ahead by three points with less than two minutes remaining against the fifth ranked team in the nation.

“If you make it a pressure situation, then it is,” Powell said. “If you just go out there and not think about it, then it is just another kick.”

Nerves are a big part of being a kicker, especially when the game is on the line, Powell said. He said he thinks of every kick like a practice kick to reduce the pressure, but admitted it’s nearly impossible to stop those feelings from creeping into his mind.

The Vancouver native has converted 19 of his 23 attempted field goals and made a career-long 56-yard kick this season. He has been named Pac-12 special teams player of the week three times this year.

Powell said he has been able to block distractions in his mind better this season, which has helped him be more successful.

“Obviously, [my kicks] are going in a little bit more than last year, but I think overall just focusing on my job and what I can control, not worrying about what the other ten people on the field are going to do,” Powell said.

Powell was also selected to the All-Pac-12 second team as a specialist Tuesday. WSU Special Teams Coach Eric Mele said Powell’s work in the offseason has shown in his performance on the field this year.

“I think his mentality has been tremendous. He’s super focused, he translates everything he does in practice now to game day,” Mele said. “His confidence is at an all-time high, so it’s been fun to watch him.”

Powell first started kicking at Seton Catholic High School during his junior year, the first year his high school had a football team. Only 25 people tried out for the team and Powell was one of them.

He played soccer in high school as well. Powell was a first-team all-league selection in each of his four years in high school and scored 49 goals in 16 games during his senior season.

“I would have had about 60 [goals] if I was a little more selfish,” Powell joked.

During the summer before his senior year, Powell made a trip to Pullman for a football camp. He showed off his kicking skills, and that’s when WSU became a reality, he said.

Other options were on the table, though, when Powell began to look at colleges. He wanted to find a university willing to offer him a full scholarship in either soccer or football.

Powell received offers from University of San Francisco, Western Washington University and Oregon State University to play soccer, but none of them offered him a full ride.

WSU Head Coach Mike Leach then came calling and gave Powell the scholarship he was looking for.

Mele said the game of football grew on Powell, which affected his choice to pursue it over soccer.

“He kind of found the love for football,” Mele said, “and that’s the kind of passion that drove him when he had to make a decision on what he wanted to do.”

Powell said being a kicker is unlike any other position on the field, because they get relatively few plays to prove themselves and leave their stamp on the game.

“As a kicker, you only have so many chances to get out on the field,” Powell said. “You don’t really get redoes, so you got to go out and execute.”

Mele said a consistent routine is key for a kicker to be successful, and Powell has that.

“[Powell] just goes out there and is able to accept the fact that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again,” Mele said. “He has to do that, he has to be like a machine.”

Powell said he is looking forward to getting married in February and isn’t worried about possibly making it to the NFL right now. Instead, he is focused on finishing his final season at WSU with a bowl victory.

However, Mele said Powell has a chance to make it at the next level.

“This year’s been a good enough year to put himself on the radar screen and give himself an opportunity,” Mele said. “I wouldn’t bet against him.”