About a year or so ago, I received an email from someone asking us to remove some photos which were, while in good humor, disparaging to former Ole Miss Rebel and current Houston Texan nose tackle Jerrell Powe. You know what photos we're talking about here, the "I haz a crayon" type jokes intended to make light of Powe's learning disabilities and wholly unfair stunted development as a student.
Powe, it seems, was working to make sure that his legacy was one of hard work, sacrifice, and dedication, and not barely earning eligibility after several years battling the NCAA Clearinghouse and the Ole Miss administration. It was a fair request, and it involved a terribly outdated joke (Ole Miss humor circa 2008), so I figured "why the hell not." I obliged, and in return I received a completely undeserved autographed photo of Powe, in his shiny new Texan's jersey, which reads "To Bob and the guys at RCR, thanks for your support. Hotty Toddy!"
This came in the mail after I read this absolutely masterfully written piece (which we frontpaged here) on the "Hargrave Four," of which Powe was a part. As with the rest of his superstar Hargrave teammates, Jerrell Powe struggled academically, and these struggles followed him to Ole Miss during his second and third recruitments into the program. As I've come to learn, Powe's plight was due to his being the refuse of a broken educational system that had ill-prepared him for college. He isn't stupid, nor is he illiterate, as was a common refrain and theme of humor around these parts and elsewhere during his fight for academic and athletic eligibility. He simply wasn't ready for college. He got ready, and once he made it to campus, he had to prove it after a year of "probation" of sorts from football. Pete Boone and Robert Khayat, then-respective Athletics Director and Chancellor of Ole Miss, asked him to just be a student for a year. Pass your real university classes, and then you can play football.
This was a deal that was hoist upon Jerrell, and nobody else, because the administration saw how unfairly scrutinized his case was by the media, and didn't want the negative press that could come with granting him immediate eligibility, even though the NCAA had already cleared him on their end.
In that same story, the late Joe Barnett, a close friend of Jerrell's who worked tirelessly to ensure Powe got his just desserts, is quoted as saying 'misunderstandings about his intellectual abilities had to cast a long shadow. Those decisions [made by Ole Miss and the NCAA] were made far on the side of caution."
Oof... How complicit was I in all of this? Of course we never meant any harm, but good intentions don't always mean good outcomes. "Hey y'all Jerrell Powe's having trouble getting eligible and his mom even mistakenly said that he was illiterate isn't that funny?" And we were putting that on the internet for
dozens thousands of people to see and develop false perceptions of the young man's ability, perceptions which caused Pete Boone to force Powe to sit out a year out of caution. Even though he was eligible per the NCAA, he still had to prove to Ole Miss that he was capable because of all of the media scrutiny and joking on the matter.
I'm not arrogant enough to think that we, on our modest little corner of the internet, had the power to promote or prevent this, but we certainly helped perpetuate it. And while I'm not apologizing for what we may have done at the expense of another Ole Miss Rebel's personal difficulties, I'm certainly more aware of the impact we have in shaping perceptions. That's a responsibility with which I will work to be more careful.
Powe, as y'all know, was finally a part of the Landshark defense, where he earned second team all-SEC honors before being picked up in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. Now he's in Houston, fighting for a roster spot and looking to take advantage of whatever opportunities he can while proving to his doubters that he indeed belongs - something he's he's fairly experienced with at this point.
- We've got practice reports and practice reports, y'all! Football is oh so close.
- We've also got a pretty sweet photo gallery to gawk at.
- The freshmen are getting a lot of valuable looks in practice, particularly at wide receiver and on the defensive line.
- Here's one way that Damore'ea Stringfellow could become eligible this year - a "run off" waiver, the same type of NCAA waiver that Dorial Green-Beckham is pursuing in his quest to become immediately eligible at Oklahoma after leaving Mizzou.