Ladies and Gentlemen it’s official, William Powell is returning to Ottawa for the 2022 season. After a poor offensive output in 2021 the Redblacks are bringing back a familiar face in William Powell to help recapture their glory days.
In case you weren’t aware, Powell got his start in pro football with the NFL Arizona Cardinals where he performed well when called upon. Powell had gone undrafted by the NFL in 2011. Yet latched on with Arizona first on the practice squad then later on the active roster. Despite logging no stats for his first season, in 2012 he would appear in 13 games with 1 start.
Powell was able to amass 60 carries for 217 yards averaging a paltry 3.6 yards per carry. He showed his ability as a receiver catching 19 of 25 targets for 132 yards. Powell did not score any touchdowns as an NFL player. Following the 2012 season Powell returned on a 1 year extension but was ultimately cut following the Cardinals acquiring a veteran starter and 2 rookies for depth that offseason.
Powell spent 2013-2014 trying to find a home in the NFL with stints in Philadelphia, Houston and Detroit. After being cut by his fourth NFL team, Powell realized his best chance to play professionally was in Canada. Ottawa agreed and signed him for the 2015 season.
Powell joined Ottawa primarily as a depth piece at first but it wasn’t long before his play on the practice field, led to more in game reps for the CFL rookie. Following an injury to starter Jeremiah Johnson, Powell was called upon as the starter. He would end up starting the final 5 games of the season.
The 5 foot 8, 210 bowling ball of a back, played in a total of 7 games but racked up 76 carries for 447 yards and 2 tds with a 5.9 yard per carry average. Showing everyone that he belongs in the Canadian Football League.
In June of 2016 heading into his second season with Ottawa, likely headed toward a starting job, suffered an Achilles injury and missed the entire year. This injury occurred in week 1 of the preseason and wiped out any hopes he had of playing that year. I believe Powell felt his back against the wall during his rehab, he felt just as he found a league he could find success in he has a major injury and puts the rest of his career in question. During the 2016 season Ottawa won the Grey Cup while Powell watched from the sidelines.
Powell must have used this as fuel for the fire in 2017. Prior to reaching free agency Powell inked a 1 year extension to stay with Ottawa. During the 2017 season Powell set a team record with 187 yards on the ground. Finishing the season with 173 carries, 1,026 rushing yards, and 5 tds. This performance placed him second in rushing yards for the 2017 season. Despite missing 6 gsmes, he averaged 5.9 yards per carry again and fell just 9 yards short of tying for the league lead in rushing. He was named a CFL East All Star for the first time.
If there is one thing I have learned about Powell during my research is he does not like falling short of his goals. He uses it as motivation to push his game to another level each time he falls short.
Powell inked another one year extension to remain in Ottawa for the 2018 season. Knowing he could build off of his performance in the 2017 season. This time Powell stayed mostly healthy, playing in 16 games. He was able to carry the rock 251 times for 1,362 yards and 6 tds. To that point all of these numbers were career highs. However, he fell short of the league lead in rushing once again to Andrew Harris.
This time Powell decided to move onto a roster that might be able to offer a more creative rushing attack. He decided to join former running back coach, Craig Dickenson who had just been hired as the Head Coach of the Roughriders. Dickenson came to Saskatchewan with 2 Grey Cup victories on his resume which drew respect from players like Powell who envisioned himself as the missing piece to an otherwise Grey Cup level offense.
Powell in a new offensive scheme, under a new coaching staff in 2019 went on to lead the league in rushing tds with 12. Proving to be a valuable runner in the redzone. Powell played in all 18 games for the first time in his career racking up 215 carries for 1,093 yards and 12 touchdowns. Following the 2019 season I have no doubt that Powell was kicking himself for spending as much time as he did chasing the NFL.
In just 4 seasons playing in Canada, Powell had already been a part of a Grey Cup win, named a two time CFL East All Star, and led the league in rushing touchdowns. Falling just short of the league lead in rushing yards twice. Powell has quickly developed into one of the best running backs at the CFL level, and displayed versatility to contribute as a receiver as well.
Powell would ultimately sign a one year extension to stay with the Roughriders in 2020 during the league shut down. His eyes were set on a monster performance in 2021. Unfortunately the injury bug bit once again, this time causing him to miss 3 games.
Playing in just 13 games, Powell carried the ball 168 times, for 733 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a 4.4 yard average. All of these were a career lows as a full time starter. Following the 2021 season Powell was slated to hit free agency. About two weeks before free agency officially opened word came out that Cody Fajardo had agreed to restructure his contract. I personally believed this was directly related to their efforts to resign Powell who had been a key member of their offense the last two seasons.
Ultimately the Roughriders seem to have lost out on retaining Powell. Instead Powell will rejoin the Ottawa Redblacks. At 33 years old it seems Powell felt he had unfinished business with the team that gave him his start in the CFL. I would expect that Powell will assume the starting role, but I also expect Timothy Flanders to still find a role as a rotational piece in the backfield.
This was a huge move for Ottawa who earlier this week was able to sign Jeremiah Massoli arguably the most prized free agent QB. The veteran leadership provided by Massoli, and Powell who have proven they know how to win will be crucial in rebuilding the Redblacks into a perennial playoff contender.
Check out my article discussing the signing of Jeremiah Massoli.
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