*** NOTE *** A version of this piece ran in the paper/sister page Thursday. This is an updated version with some addional comments from D.J. Durkin, Will Muschamp and Ronald Powell. Enjoy
GAINESVILLE -- Strong-side linebacker/defensive end Ronald Powell was inspired by Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson’s near record-setting 2012 season.
Now, he hopes his comeback season will be just as successful.
Powell led Florida in sacks (6.0) in 2011 before tearing his ACL twice in the past year. He never played a down last season, and the redshirt junior said he’s ready to bust out this fall.
“Just the feeling of running out in the Swamp. I can feel it, man. It’s going to happen for me.”
Powell, the nation’s No. 1 recruit in 2010, said he keeps a Sports Illustrated cover story on Peterson’s incredible comeback in his locker for motivation.
“I know he had a lot of anxiety about coming back and all that,” defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin said. “But we’re seeing the flashes of No. 7 to say, ‘Alright we got what we think we had.’”
After two non-contact tears in a calendar year, the redshirt junior was tense early in camp, but head coach Will Muschamp said over time Powell has “gained a lot confidence” and “really cut it loose.”
The knee “feels great,” according to Powell.
Powell also admitted his resilient rehabilitation wasn’t strictly physical. Humbled by his adversity -- he matured.
“You have to strap it up and take [the hardships] on full speed ahead,” he said. “You just have to grow from it. It’s in front of you. There’s no reason to harp on it. You know it’s there, so take it on full speed ahead and go at it.”
Somewhere, Muschamp is smiling.
“That’s one of the great feelings you have as a coach, to see a guy develop and come through so much adversity and handle it as well as he handled it,” Muschamp said. “That’s one of the joys you get in coaching when you see a young man like that develop.”
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