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Powe never once wavered in his dream to play for Ole Miss and attended Hargrave Military Academy and took correspondence courses in an attempt to make grades. But the NCAA invalidated most of that work and Powe started a two-year journey to become a Rebel. He could have attended a junior college, but chose the more difficult path, a decision he does not regret.

That long journey, in fact, has fueled his desire even on the hottest days of summer, when he pushed through the end of every workout.

“It comes up when I don’t feel like going very hard today or when we get to this drill and I’m out of gas,” Powe said. “I always find myself pushing. When we get to conditioning and the time is 18 seconds but I know I can make it in 16, I get a little wind and I find myself saying, ‘Naw, you got to make it in 16, you’ve got to be the best.’

“I use those things out there to keep me motivated.”

He needed plenty of motivation to get his weight down to a reasonable level. He was 384 pounds when he first practiced with the Rebels three years ago, and carrying all that weight slowed him down. He dropped below 350 last year and started to show some of that promise. He finished with 12 tackles for loss, eighth in the SEC, and three sacks with 10 starts at tackle.

He had enough success that it fed an offseason workout frenzy, and Powe 2.0 is something to behold on the practice field. Consider the time he ran down Jesse Grandy, the Rebels’ fastest player, on a reverse during spring practice.

“It wasn’t shocking because last fall I actually saw Powe run down Devin Thomas in the open field,” running back Brandon Bolden said of another of the team’s fastest sprinters.

“He just ran him down,” Bolden said. “He horsecollared him, but it was the fact that Powe went from a three-point stance, turned around and went and caught Devin. I’ve seen Powe do some amazing things. I’ve been hit by Powe. Powe just doesn’t cease to amaze me.”

What’s it like to get hit by Powe?

“You ever been in a car wreck?” Bolden asked. “It’s quite similar to a car wreck.”

It’s the anticipation of collisions like those that has made Powe a nominee for those major national awards. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt says Powe’s story alone is worth a trophy.

“Without question, where he came from academically just to get into school, the distance, the perseverance just to say, ‘I want to be here, I want to make it,’” Nutt said. “I was worried about him just making it academically. But man, not any more. His name doesn’t show up on lists, the professors like him. He’s come 1,000 miles. Now he’s one of our leaders.”