Head Coach Chris Hatcher had nothing but glowing remarks when talking about junior wide receiver Walter Powell and his remarkable season.
“He just loves to play the game,” Hatcher said. “What you see out there on the game day, I see that every day at practice. He’s a tremendous competitor.”
Powell finished the 2012 season with the single-best receiving stats in Murray State football history, snagging 94 passes for 1,213 yards and 10 touchdowns.
As if catching passes was not enough, Powell decided to turn on the jets as the primary punt and kick returner for the Racers, making history books with his 100-yard punt return touchdown against SEMO on Nov. 17 and finishing the season with 905 return yards, two punt return scores and one kick return for six.
By averaging 193 all-purpose yards per game on the season, Powell finished second in the FCS in the category for the year. The numbers have not gone unnoticed, as he will be one of top 100 receivers in the country next pre-season.
With such an impressive resume to his name, Powell said the toughest challenge for him now lies in the future, where he said he hopes to be even better next season and set goals higher than in years past.
While the record-breaking year could be characterized as a statistical anomaly by some, anyone who knows Powell realizes it is anything but. In 2011, Powell led the team in receiving yards (584), tied for the team lead in touchdowns (5) and was second on the team in receptions (45).
The chemistry between Powell and senior quarterback Casey Brockman this season could be seen on the first snaps of the 2012 season against Florida State, as the 6-foot-1-inch, 180-pound receiver constantly beat press coverage and one-on-ones on his way to nine catches and 67 yards for the game.
It wasn’t all cake for Powell this season, however, as the losses outweighed the wins in the end as the Racers finished 5-6 overall and just 4-4 in conference play.
One particular game for Powell proved incredibly difficult, when on Oct. 27 the Jacksonville State Gamecocks held him without a catch for the entire game.
As the only team to give him the goose-egg all season, the Gamecocks went on to win 38 – 35.
“Casey was trying to get me the ball, but it just wasn’t working out,” he said. “I wasn’t going to be that go-to guy for the game. They schemed us up well, and I didn’t touch the ball the whole game.”
With Brockman’s last season as a Racer wrapped up, Powell said he and the rest of the team will have to take it upon themselves to welcome a new leader behind center for next season. Had things shaken up a little differently, however, Powell might not even be in a Racer uniform to help lead the team next season, much less set school records this year.
“Coming out of high school, my grades weren’t too good,” Powell said. “The plan was to go to junior college. I had other schools in the OVC like UT-Martin and SEMO looking at me, but they didn’t throw out any offers. I thought I would go (to a junior college) and then transfer to a big D-I school. Coach Hatcher came around last minute and was blowing me up and bugging me. I like the players and I like the chemistry and the camaraderie down here.”
Bringing a work ethic on and off the field is just part of Powell’s game. It is raved about by the coaching staff, and as voice in the locker room, Powell said he prides himself on being a model example for others on the team.
It’s just one more asset to take with him after he finishes at Murray State.
“Hard work really pays off,” he said. “You have to always be working hard, whether the spotlight is on you or not.”
Story by: Edward Marlowe, Staff writer