As a 2014 recruit who had the dreaded “athlete” label coming out of high school, Brandon Powell struggled to establish himself as a dominant running back, wide receiver, or special teamer at Florida. Powell gained only 61 yards on 17 career punt returns with the Gators and it was no surprise when he went undrafted in 2018.
Three years and five teams later, Brandon Powell had 61 yards —as many in his entire college career — on a single punt return for the Los Angeles Rams and was given the game ball by head coach Sean McVay:
“I thought there was one play that really grabbed the momentum and got it back in our favor. They cut it to a three-point game, (Brandon Powell) takes a punt to the crib, man.”
"Punched a ticket to the playoffs, but we know that's not the end goal."— x - Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) December 26, 2021
Listen in on our Week 16 victory speech! pic.twitter.com/yzrQUbHBjb
Following a Matthew Stafford interception and an immediate touchdown, the Vikings closed LA’s lead to 13-10 early in the third quarter. Minnesota’s defense forced a three-and-out on the next drive, but the Rams’ defense did the same and the Vikings brought out punter Jordan Berry.
61 yards later, the Rams were up 20-10 and soon to be cruising to a playoff berth victory.
Brandon Powell played with Stafford on the Detroit Lions as a rookie in 2018, catching 11 passes for 129 yards and returning two punts. He spent the next two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, which is where he got his first chance to work on a team with Raheem Morris. Powell was first signed by the Buffalo Bills in March of this year, then picked up by the Miami Dolphins on September 2nd, hanging on the practice squad until being released on October 12th.
It would take almost another month before Powell was back on an NFL team, reuniting with Stafford and Morris and getting signed to the LA Rams’ practice squad on November 4th following the release of DeSean Jackson and placing Tutu Atwell on injured reserve. Powell made his Rams debut on December 5th against the Jaguars, returning two kicks for 81 yards.
The life of an NFL returner/”athlete” can be a tumultuous one, but Brandon Powell has earned at least another week as best friends with Sean McVay.