When North Carolina senior defensive lineman Tyler Powell was younger, he had a lot of goals.
“In the past it’s been all about ‘I want to do this on the field,’ ‘I want to do that on the field,’” he said.
But after a knee injury on Sept. 23, 2017 ended his senior season prematurely last year, Powell said his mindset changed.
Now in his fifth year, Powell, a 6-4, 270-pound defensive lineman, is no longer worried about the individual accolades. He said he’s just enjoying the moment and being a part of the team.
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“Whatever comes from my performance when I’m out there comes, but that’s not the first thing in my mind,” he said. “I’m more worried about how we do as a team and making sure that we’re on the right track and we can get everybody that we need to, to contribute.”
Powell, who is from Midlothian, Va., was one several players to suffer an injury last year. UNC doesn’t release information about player injuries. But those injuries helped contribute to the Tar Heels’ 3-9 season.
But Powell believes this season can be better.
Powell had two tackles and UNC’s defense played well in the Tar Heels’ first game of the season, a 24-17 loss at California last Saturday. Cal managed only 279 yards of offense. And 14 of its 24 points came off turnovers. This week, the Tar Heels (0-1) play East Carolina (0-1), a team Powell and his UNC teammates lost to 70-41 in 2014, his freshman season. Powell had two tackles in that game.
“It’s one of those ones that I’ve kind of been waiting for because I hate that feeling,” Powell said of the 2014 loss. “That was kind of brutal that game, and as a freshman, I got hurt that game. So being able to have that second chance to come back and really be able to redeem ourselves, I think it’s going to be really important.”
This time around, Powell will likely have an opportunity to make a bigger impact for the Tar Heels. UNC is already missing starting defensive tackle Aaron Crawford, who injured his knee in a summer practice. And UNC senior defensive end Malik Carney will start his four-game suspension for selling team-issued Air Jordan sneakers.
Carney, a leader on the team, had eight tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss against California.
“Every guy has got to pitch in and make up for the reps that he’s not going to be out there,” UNC defensive coordinator John Papuchis said of Carney.
That includes Powell.
Earlier this week, UNC coach Larry Fedora said Powell could play both defensive end and defensive tackle. He’s done that in the past.
“The one thing about Tyler is, he’s very intelligent so he can handle either spot in the defensive line,” Fedora said. “He’s not really a guy that has to have a tremendous amount of reps because he’s smart. He really knows the defense.
“That’s why it’s nice to have him back because he can play both positions for us.”
For Powell, he’s not worried about putting up big numbers, he said.
He’s just trying to help lead his team and enjoy the moment.