Strange Draftfellows … Mid-week Cup O’Chiefs

One of the reasons that I’ve enjoyed covering pro football for more than three decades has always been the stories behind the stories.

Those always pop up during the NFL Draft, when more than 250 players are injected into the league all in the span of a few days. Just from that group alone it makes for some strange Draftfellows, odd juxtapositions of young men and their stories.

Like the final two players drafted by the Chiefs – sixth-round NT Jerrell Powe and seventh-round FB Shane Bannon. The differences in their stories at the bottom of the list of nine Kansas City draft choices are probably the most dramatic in the league.

There is Powe, a 6-2, 330-pound monster in the middle of the Ole Miss defense, who is considered one of the best players to ever come up through the ranks of Mississippi schoolboy football. All the biggest programs offered him scholarships – Auburn, LSU, Nebraska, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas A&M, to name just a few.

But his biggest struggles were not on the football field, but in the Mississippi classrooms and courtrooms. This is a young man whose mother said in a deposition that her son could not read. For three years after his high school graduation, Powe could not get the NCAA to declare him eligible to play.

And there is Bannon, who this week is taking his last two finals on the way to a bachelor’s degree in political science at Yale University. His senior thesis was titled “How the New Media Affected Barrack Obama’s Campaign and its Affect on Presidential Campaigns in 2012.”

Just three months ago, Bannon had given little thought to a career in pro football. After graduation (in two weeks), he was going to take a year off, prepare to take the LSAT, and possibly find a graduate assistant job at a college where he could continue his education while getting his foot in the door of coaching. There was also a consideration of law school going to law school.

Here are their stories.


Coming out of Wayne County High School in Waynesboro, Mississippi, Powe was a five-star recruit according to the scouting services and he was a three-time all-state selection and was picked for the prestigious Parade Magazine All-America team.

He committed to play at Ole Miss and signed a letter of intent in February 2005. But the school denied him admission because of his test scores and a lack of certain core requirement courses.

Powe went off to Virginia and spent the 2005 football season at Hargrave Military Academy where he attempted to improve his academic standing.

He tried to enroll in 2006 at Mississippi, but the NCAA said he was ineligible as they had concerns about some of the correspondence courses he had taken to meet qualification standards. The same thing happened in 2007. The University filed an immediate appeal of the decision as Powe was ineligible to play in the ’07 season. He did attend classes, but only because of a temporary restraining order that was granted after he sought help from the courts.

The NCAA rejected the appeal and Powe and his mother Shirley filed a lawsuit against the NCAA. It was in a deposition in preparation for that suit where Shirley Powe was quoted as saying “Jerrell really is a good child, but he just can’t read.”

That comment would rattle through the world of college athletics, though the truth of her comment was in doubt after Powe read out loud a story in a Mississippi paper. “She was quoted wrong,” Powe has said.

Eventually, the law suit was withdrawn and for a third time, Powe enrolled at Ole Miss, under a plan where he could prove that he was able to handle the school work necessary for him to achieve eligibility. He did just that.

“I’m proud of myself,” he said. “I was never going anywhere else. I’m going to Ole Miss. If I’ve got to sit out two more years, I’m going to Ole Miss.

“I always wanted to play football and I wanted to do whatever it took to play football.”

It was on July 28, 2008 that the Southeastern Conference declared him eligible to play football at Ole Miss. That night, Powe celebrated at his family’s home, joined by his high school coach Marcus Boyles.

“He just kept working hard, kept believing, and finally his dream’s coming true,” Boyles said. “I couldn’t be happier for him. The thing I’m proudest of is that this young man never quit. He got knocked down a few times. People kept saying that it would never happen, never happen, never happen. And finally, it happened.”

His coach at Mississippi was equally profuse in his praise of Powe.

“Anybody could have stopped after the first time or second time or third time when he couldn’t get in school,” Coach Houston Nutt. “But this guy keeps going. He has a drive for excellence, whether in the classroom, on the football field and the weight room.

“Professors like him; his name never shows up on any lists (for missing class). He loves his teammates and his teammates love him. He’s got a heart bigger than Vaught-Hemingway (Stadium).”


As his college football career came to an end on that cold November Saturday last fall, Shane Bannon walked off the field at Harvard Stadium and figured that Yale’s 28-21 loss to the Crimson would be his last chance to play competitive football. There was sadness in that thought.

He had never played organized football until his sophomore year at Pomperaug High School in his hometown of Southbury, Connecticut. But as soon as he started running up and down the field, running into people, knocking them over, he found out football was a lot like hockey, which he had played since he was a mighty-mite.

Bannon sat out his freshman year (as all Ivy League players do) he looked forward to handing out punishment to help relieve the pressure that builds juggling the heavy academic load that comes with an Ivy League education.

But there really wasn’t any thought on his part that football could continue beyond that Harvard game. There had been consideration given the previous year when Yale welcomed a new head coach, Tom Williams, who had been on Jack Del Rio’s staff with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“Shane has come a long way, probably as far as anyone on our football team,” Williams said. “We challenged him to be tougher. We said, ‘You’re a 265-pound man, and we need you to play like that.’ He has done that the last year.

“I am just as proud of him as I can be because of the player he has become. He is a big, skilled athlete, but he will also split you open. He is a physical, aggressive blocking guy, and that is something we needed him to be.”

After sitting out that freshman season, Bannon didn’t become a starter until midway through his junior season. He never felt comfortable no matter what was asked of him as he bounced around that year between fullback, tight end and H-back because of a bum shoulder.

But surgery after that 2009 season for a torn labrum made him good as new and he came back as a senior and played largely at fullback, with a lot of special teams work.

“He is like an extra guard who obviously has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, as well,” Williams said. “That added dimension of his size and pass-catching ability is a difficult matchup for opponents. He has been very successful in that role for us this year.”

All through those four years, Bannon juggled his football with his academic work, something he had done well enough in high school to earn conference all-academic honors, and he picked up a few of those at Yale as well.

After Yale’s season, Williams again told Bannon that he had a skill set that would interest the NFL. Uninvited to the post-season all-star games and the NFL Combine, Bannon began a 12-week program trying to improve his speed. Working with the strength and conditioning staff on campus in New Haven, the idea was to improve his speed.

And he also got hooked up with agent Joe Linta, who is one of the more respected player reps in the league. One of the many clients he’s had over the years that played for the Chiefs was Will Shields. Linta saw Bannon on tape and then saw him workout and he started pushing his new client with his NFL connections, including guys like Chiefs GM Scott Pioli.

“He blows people up as a blocker, he is a demon on special teams, he catches the ball really smooth low and behind him, and he is a really good route runner,” Linta said. “When he is playing tight end, and they run boot or waggle, he gets across the field as quick as anyone I have seen, and he has tremendous position versatility.”

Plus, that 12-week program had him clocking in at 4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash. To find someone in the 6-2, 265-pound range who can run that fast drew the attention of teams tipped off by Linta. They came to the Yale campus to work him out, clubs like the Chiefs, Patriots, Seahawks and Bears.

“It was absolutely surreal,” Bannon said. “If you asked me a year ago what my chances were to go to an NFL training camp, I would have told you one in a million. I think I have put myself in a really good position to try to make it to the next level.”

On Day 3 of the NFL Draft and in the seventh round, the guy who just a few years before really wasn’t that interested in football was on the phone talking with Todd Haley and finding out that the LSAT would just have to wait.

“It feels amazing,” Bannon said. “We (Yale) haven’t had a draft pick since 2004 and you know all these guys work so hard, we work as hard as anyone across the country. I think it just gives the guys a lot to look forward too.”

5 Responses to “Strange Draftfellows … Mid-week Cup O’Chiefs”

  • May 4, 2011  - RW says:

    Excellent digging and work on these two, Bob. You’ve got to love the guys who overcome adversity and find a way to get it done and rise to the next level.

    If heart, desire and dogged determination have anything to do with success and it DOES, these guys should both be excellent additions to the Chief’s roster in 2011 and beyond.

  • May 4, 2011  - Will Bannon just be content? says:

    Is Bannon just satisfied to have made it this far, or is there some fire in him to try to make it among the best? I couldn’t tell.

  • May 4, 2011  - el cid says:

    Not worried about effort/fire from either. When you have spent a large amount of your life playing football, getting into the locker room is not enough. IN MOST CASES. These two may not make it but they will be there until throw off the field.

    Yes, we have seen more than our share of get the money and run but at the position of these two not a whole lot of money involved.

  • May 4, 2011  - Anonymous says:

    And there is Bannon, who this week is taking his last two finals on the way to a bachelor’s degree in political science at Yale University. His senior thesis was titled “How the New Media Affected Barrack Obama’s Campaign and its Affect on Presidential Campaigns in 2012.”

    Great stories Bob, but I certainly hope the title of Bannon’s senior thesis doesn’t include a typo (Effect, not Affect) ;-)

  • May 7, 2011  - Anonymous says:

    Powe was dyslexic that needed to be in the story.

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