Arizona Rattlers quarterback Drew Powell has two MVP awards under his belt and now he’s looking to add to his list of accolades.
“When you say ‘Drew Powell,’ I want ‘championship’ to be the first thing you think about,” he says.
The Rattlers continue their winning ways against the Tucson Sugar Skulls in Tucson on Saturday, May 7. Their next home game is Saturday, May 14, when they take on the Massachusetts Pirates.
Powell instantly connected with the game at a young age.
“My dad, my uncles, they all played football growing up,” Powell says. “They introduced me to it, I was pretty much born with a football in my hand.”
He played football throughout his schooling, and carried that passion through Livingstone College, where the 6-foot-3 star was the quarterback. Upon graduation, he longed to continue that.
“I didn’t want to play, you know, semi-pro or anything like that,” Powell says. “I wanted to show I could really be a professional quarterback, lead a team, be the face of the franchise. So, when that didn’t come with the NFL, I still had to figure it out. That was still my dream and aspiration.”
The path wasn’t that easy.
“That road, that road was rocky, man,” he says. “It took a lot of perseverance, a lot of determination, and just me wanting to prove to myself that I could do it.”
Powell planned to play overseas, but the league folded. From there, he moved on to Canadian Football League workouts and camps, but nothing stuck.
He found himself in the IFL after sending a message on Twitter to the Sioux Falls Storm.
“They watched my film and they were like, ‘Hey, come to camp.’ I went to camp and did what I was supposed to do. That’s how I got into the league — through the back door.”
As a new Sioux Falls player, he wore several hats, ranging from special teams to receiver, just to make the team. His next stop was with the Iowa Barnstormers.
“I went to Iowa, and I made plays and just showed the league and myself my talents,” he says. “After that, it was pretty smooth.
“It feels like the IFL and I have been growing together. Before I came into the league, they played on a subscription channel. Then, when I came into the league, that was the first year it was on YouTube and we had new teams — big-city teams like Vegas and California.”
Powell says he and the league are also garnering attention together. He’s excited to be a league ambassador and the face of the game.
Switching from NFL-style play to IFL rules was a little challenging, he says.
“That was a little weird. I had to get used to the motions and the speed of the game,” Powell says.
Even with career stability, Powell found his path to the Rattlers filled with twists and turns.
During his final season with the Barnstormers, Powell tried out for the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Roughriders wanted to convert Powell to a defensive back when he arrived.
After finishing minicamp, Powell returned to Iowa and wrapped up the season as the title-winning quarterback. After the championship, the Roughriders asked Powell to return — this time as the quarterback.
Unfortunately, however, the team’s head coach left for an assistant coaching job in the NFL.
“He was the guy that was really cheering for me,” Powell says. “He was the guy who brought me. It wasn’t like a position coach who I could lean on. So, when he was gone, it was kind of tough.”
After having his opportunity to make the CFL it was hard to consider the IFL.
“I didn’t want to come back to the IFL,” Powell says.
“Honestly, the whole goal was to go to the CFL or NFL. So, I felt like I did that.”
He waited for CFL teams to recruit him. He spent a short time playing in the now-folded Arena Football Leagues’ Atlantic City Blackjacks. His next move: the Arizona Rattlers.
“I just feel like that’s how it was supposed to happen,” Powell says.
“I get to actually play football. I get to run the ball, throw the ball and show my complete skillset.”
The now two-time MVP is in elite company. He’s only one of two players in the league to win the award on two separate teams. The other is Rattlers quarterback coach Chris Dixon, ironically. Powell is taking advantage of the opportunity to be mentored by Dixon.
“To be in that company is major,” he says. “Then the craziest part is that the only other person to do it is my coach.”
“It’s a blessing. I’m humbled, honestly. I’m just soaking everything up.”
Powell is concerned about his legacy, but he’s also focused on correcting the last two championship games.
“We went to the championship and I’m just trying to get back on track and win,” Powell says.
“If we win the next two or the next three, they’ll forget about the two that we lost.”
The Rattlers have always been hungry to win, and the staff expects greatness from its players. That attitude and those expectations encourage Powell to stay with the Rattlers.
“I told them when I got here, I felt I could make my career here,” Powell says.
“It’s somewhere I want to be. It feels like football. It doesn’t feel like a side job or just a joke or a little arena football team. No, this is the real deal.”