Deseret News
FILE: Defensive back Sawyer Powell during BYU football practice Monday, March 26, 2012, in Provo, Utah.

PROVO — It’s a team that is often made fun of because of the age of its players.

But that doesn’t subtract from the quality of the person, the reality of their life’s trials, time in service between semesters, effort in practices, games, and injuries along the way. In fact, BYU’s oldest players usually go through a gauntlet.

Meet the oldest player on BYU’s 2019 football team, the ribbon-carrying certified team Yoda, the man with the most miles in the program: It is senior safety Sawyer Powell, a 6-foot-1 senior from West Richland, Washington.

He could be a poster guy for the program. He has a 1,000-watt smile, works hard and is well-spoken and confident. He spent two years as a missionary in Montevideo, Uruguay, and before he came to BYU, he scored No. 1 in the SPARQ skill training test for linebackers in the country. His score ranked No. 7 among all measured Nike camp athletes nationally.

As a freshman in 2012, Powell was coached by Nick Howell under Bronco Mendenhall, now head coach at Virginia.

For perspective, in 2012, Barack Obama was just elected to a second term, legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno died with his school steeped in scandal, London hosted the Olympic games, there was an assault on two U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya that killed an ambassador, and one of the top-grossing movies was Marvel’s “The Avengers.”

That year ancient Mayans predicted the end of the world for Dec. 21, 2012, which would have prevented Kyle Van Noy from scoring more than San Diego State’s offense in the Poinsettia Bowl. Powell was there but was on an academic redshirt. He redshirted athletically in 2017 due to injuries, something that has haunted his entire career, the biggest issue being back surgery.

Powell was born Dec. 1, 1993, two years before the internet was formally commercialized and in mass public use. He is now 25 and yes, his teammates do make fun and joke that he’s so old.

“They make jokes and stuff because, you know, I was here when my position coach, Preston Hadley, was playing. I played with (Kansas City Chiefs) Danny Sorensen and Kyle Van Noy so if I ever say anything about those guys, it definitely dates me.”

Powell applied for and received an extra year of eligibility this past year. It was tied to his first year as an academic redshirt and his injuries.

Powell sees great things in both the Mendenhall and Kalani Sitake timelines. And though he claims he isn’t the person to put it all in perspective, he does like the current program. “There’s a lot of good to say about both,” he said.

Today’s coaches have created a unique atmosphere on the team, said Powell. “They’ve brought a lot of excitement to the game for the players. There’s a lot of unity, it really feels like a family with these guys, and there is still a lot of fire and competitiveness.”

Powell said at present, the program has done a very good job recruiting and predicts that football will continue to improve this season.

Walking out of Camp Randall Stadium at Wisconsin with a win, getting ranked and going toe-to-toe with other opponents in a 2018 season that ended in a bowl win were all confidence boosters that will carry over this season, said Powell.

“It helped us to realize what our potential is and realize that if we come together, if we really learn about our positions to the best of our abilities and take care of each other and make sure that each position group is doing their responsibilities, if we have unity and togetherness, we can get those big wins throughout the season.”

11 comments on this story

Powell’s BYU career has spanned seven to eight years, although he wasn’t on campus for two of those years due to church service. Injuries have kept him from establishing a regular role. He has had seven or eight hamstring injuries, a broken hand, and injuries to his shoulder and back which have been hurdles to getting playing time, but he places the Wisconsin win among the top experiences he’s had as a Cougar.

“It was incredible, it was something that was hard to describe what was going on during the game and afterward with the team. I’ll never forget that experience.”

Now comes Powell’s final lap around the old football track.

It’s taken almost a decade.