If Ben Powers always took the easiest route, he’d probably be one of the best offensive linemen in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association. The lone clear-cut path he had for a football scholarship at a four-year school led there.
But that wasn’t his dream.
“I watched the Big 12 my whole life growing up in Kansas and it was my dream to play in it,” Powers said. “I wanted to play at the highest level of college football.”
The Oklahoma offensive lineman believed there was something better if he was willing to bet on himself and head in a different direction. That meant spurning some FCS offers and heading to Butler (Kansas) Community College. Powers was convinced if some Big 12 offensive line coaches would take a look at him, his wish would be fulfilled.
That was two years ago. Powers only needed four months and one season of junior college to validate his decision. The guard started 10 games for the Sooners last season as a sophomore. OU won all of them, and Powers picked up some all-conference honors along the way.
You can’t give all the credit to Powers entering the starting lineup. That group meshed when Big 12 play began for several reasons. But if you’re looking for the characteristics an offensive lineman needs to thrive, Powers checks all the boxes.
“He’s a tough kid and he wants to be a great player. He’s smart. You either have those things or you don’t,” OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh said. “It’s hard thing to find in recruiting. You talk to as many people as you can and you go out there and you see him on tape and evaluate him on that. I didn’t get a chance to evaluate him in spring or in practice or anything like that. It was more on tape and getting know him and his family. That’s credit to him. You can either do the things he does or you can’t. I’m talking about intangibles. He has the toughness that not a lot of guys have. He’s really bright and he wants to be great.”
Stories — even rumors — about diva behavior from offensive linemen are rare. More so than any other position group, they function as one of five. Great performances by skill players are traced back to their grunt work, but football’s biggest men often play in anonymity.
But there’s a swagger required to thrive in that environment. An offensive lineman plays at least 60 snaps during a game. The goal is to impose your will by brute force on another individual on every play.
“We’re in there to move people,” Powers said.
Powers showed he had that trait before he arrived at OU. The route he chose was fraught with risk.
What if he got injured in junior college? What if he struggled when the competition rose beyond what he faces at Kapaun Mt. Carmel High School in Wichita, Kansas?
“I was confident in myself and the program I went to,” Powers said. I didn’t know it would happen so quick. I didn’t know if it would take one, two or even three years. I knew eventually I’d get to my destination.”
Staying on the field isn’t easy. Powers moved into the starting lineup due to an injury to guard Cody Ford last season. Ford’s health is no longer an issue.
In fact, the competition for OU’s interior offensive line spots is as intense as it’s ever been. Powers, Ford, right guard Dru Samia and centers Erick Wren and Jonathan Alvarez raise the bar on a daily basis.
Powers placed a big bet on himself that he could thrive in that environment. He was right.