FOOTBALL: Powers-Neal adapts well to position change
Matt Puglisi | Friday, September 9, 2005
When asked to play dual roles, most athletes find themselves constantly rearranging their thought process.
Not Irish fullback/running back Rashon Powers-Neal.
“[My mentality] doesn’t change at all,” he said.
So what exactly is he thinking when the Irish enter the red zone?
“Just get it in the end zone,” Powers-Neal said. “Get it in there as soon as possible.”
Carrying the ball eight times against Pittsburgh Saturday – many of them inside the Panthers’ 10-yard line – Powers-Neal’s strong goal line sense was on display.
The fifth-year senior pounded his way to pay dirt on three different occasions, tying his career rushing touchdown total in less than half a game.
But after seeing time at fullback each of the past three years, Powers-Neal wasn’t sure what to expect heading into the 2005 season.
“I didn’t really know how much I’d be used … so I just stayed open and ready for any situation,” Powers-Neal said.
“All I could do was go out there and continue to work hard and do my best.”
Eager to improve, Powers-Neal pushed himself through summer workouts.
He focused on increasing his power while maintaining quickness.
And the hard work paid off.
Playing either running back or fullback depending upon the situation, Powers-Neal is finding himself in the middle of the action.
And every time he takes the field, he’s becoming a little more confident he can handle the responsibility that accompanies playing two positions.
“I’m pretty comfortable with [the dual role],” Powers-Neal said.
“Each day I’m getting more comfortable with it. It’s tough trying to learn everything and trying to get all the plays down, but it’s also a lot of fun to be able to go out there and just contribute and help the team any way possible.
“I’m just enjoying it right now.”
A punishing blocker, Powers-Neal has been instrumental in opening holes for fellow running back Darius Walker.
But Powers-Neal said blocking for Walker isn’t as demanding as one might expect.
“My thing is just to get onto my guy and stick onto him, and Darius will do the rest,” Powers-Neal said. “He’ll make me look good.”
As valuable as he is at fullback, Powers-Neal offers an effective change of pace from the sharp, cutting style of Walker.
“I think that [Darius and I] bring a lot of the same things, but he kind of makes things happen, and I’m just more of a downhill runner,” Powers-Neal said.
“I just run hard.”
A quiet leader, Powers-Neal provides an example for the team’s younger players – traits that will undoubtedly come in handy when the Irish take the field in front of over 110,000 fans at Michigan Stadium.
“Not too many people have played in the Big House before, so I just try to tell the younger guys to stay calm,” Powers-Neal said.
“I try to bring experience to all the other players.”
As important as last Saturday’s game was for Powers-Neal on a personal level and the Irish as a team, Powers-Neal has refused to let the early-season success go to his head.
“I try to just stay level and keep to myself and do the things that I’ve been doing every week,” he said.
“You’ve got to take each game by itself – last week has nothing to do with this week, so we just have to go out there and play hard.”