Reasons Why Ty Powell’s ‘Intangibles’ Are Off The Charts

As we enter the final days leading up to training camp, there is one player on defense that I believe is underrated more than any other in terms of expected performance this season. Ty Powell first caught my attention last year at training camp.

While wandering from position group to position group at camp, I kept finding my eyes drawn to number 57 during almost every drill. Ty Powell seemed a step faster than everyone around him, had great balance, and most of all did whatever was asked of him right the first time, virtually every time.

However, before I roll out the ‘wyobabble’, check out this article recently written by Tyler Dunne for the Buffalo News about Ty Powell Mr. Dunne really captures the beast that lives within Ty Powell, and summarizes his development very nicely in this ‘must read’ article about his ‘measurables’.

ty powellAnyone that reads my drivel on a regular basis already knows that I’m most interested in the part of sports that involves investigating the intangible mental aspects of a professional athlete’s game. Without a doubt, Ty Powell is one of the more intriguing players on the Bills roster in that regard.

Thanks to the internet, I recently had a chance to connect with him and dig a little deeper into what makes Ty Powell tick. A big thank you to Mr. Powell for taking the time to answer some questions.

There is no question that work ethic is one of Ty Powell’s greatest strengths. No one can dispute his prowess in the weight room, or the fact that he is just a flat-out freak as an athlete. His ‘measurables’ are off the charts.

No doubt having to learn so many different schemes and positions along the way contributed a great deal to his adaptability as far as playing multiple positions. However, this is only part of the story.

It takes a great deal of intelligence to learn new schemes (and unlearn them). It’s like learning to speak Mandarin when English is your primary language.

A certain amount of raw intelligence is required, especially in area of the brain that relates to the development of language skills. No doubt his brain is well developed in this area, and has served Mr. Powell well over the years.

However, being a successful professional football player requires total dedication and a complete commitment to preparation in addition to intelligence. Hard work is not something Ty Powell shies away from, quite the contrary. He is a driven man that possesses one important quality that many might miss, he’s a scavenger for learning from every single opportunity that comes his way.

Mr. Powell credits the decision to play football for Harding University as a life changing event. Here’s what he said about deciding to play for Harding University:

“When I came on my visit to Harding everything about it just felt right. Everybody there was intentional with everything they did. They were not just going through the motions. Most of my conversations were not even about football, they just wanted to get to know me and learn how they could help me in any way they could. It took some adjusting. Harding University ultimately changed my life, and was the best decision I could have made, and with the people that are now in my life made the biggest impact in such a short period of time.”

Ty Powell clearly understood the importance of attending a school that would contribute to his overall development as a human being, regardless of the fact that it is a D2 college program. He believed in himself enough to know that he would be able to attract professional teams no matter what program he attended.

Getting selected in the 7th round in the 2013 draft by the Seattle Seahawks was all Mr. Powell needed to do to get his foot in the door of the NFL. Unfortunately, he was the victim of numbers on a talented Seahawks defensive roster and was picked up by Giants on waivers after the they were forced to part ways with him.

However, that would only serve to further motivate Ty Powell to take control of his own destiny. The Bills wisely plucked him off the Giants practice squad after Kiko Alonso was injured earlier during the 2013 off season.

So, as ‘luck’ would have it, (or destiny if you prefer), Ty Powell ended up in Buffalo playing on a team that was weak at the linebacker position. The numbers were a lot more in his favor in terms of getting his big opportunity.

When I saw Mr. Powell at training camp last year, he was busy being that ‘scavenger’, and learning all he could as fast as he could. He was proficient enough to stick on the roster, and he spent all of last season playing under yet another new scheme for Jim Schwartz. He also contributed mightily on special teams as well.

After Schwartz left and Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman took over the defense, Powell looked at this challenge as another opportunity to learn, hence the term scavenger . Outside, inside, safety and even QB in high school, Ty Powell has been there, done that. And most of the time, he did it better than anyone else.

So it came as no surprise to me when Rex Ryan said Ty Powell was the player that unexpectedly impressed him the most during off season training. If you are a believer that “things happen for a reason” then destiny is all you can say about why Ty Powell ended up in Buffalo.

Who could have predicted Marrone would flee in the manner he did, and that Rex Ryan would end up in Buffalo? In doing so, it created what could be a perfect situation for Ty Powell to take his game to the next level, and to do so in a scheme tailor made to suit his extraordinary talent.

Why is Rex Ryan’s scheme so perfect for Ty Powell? It’s a marriage made in heaven because it is structured to take advantage of Powell’s greatest strength, and that would be his adaptability. Rex defines his defense as “organized chaos”, and Powell will now be able to focus on using his adaptability instinctively rather than focusing on doing the same thing over and over, as required by Schwartz’s very defined 4-3 scheme.

Powell’s comments about Rex Ryan’s scheme mirror the comments made recently by Nickell Robey regarding his joy at returning to a scheme where he can be lined up anywhere on the field and play with reckless abandon.

In fact, here is what Ty Powell stated when asked about why Rex Ryan’s scheme suits him so well:

“The biggest thing for me is not thinking too much into the game itself. You can make the game very complicated but my key is just going out there and having fun. Everybody plays the game different and I play at my best when I’m just out there cutting it up with others and letting that inner child out.”

Letting his “inner child” out? You had to know that comment was sweet music for this old shrink. Not only does he clearly understand the meaning of a person’s ‘inner child’, he loves to play like one! Obviously Mr. Powell understands the importance of developmental psychology in maximizing physical performance.

And that’s just the beginning in terms of what Ty Powell possesses in terms of having the right type of personality to succeed in the NFL. Check out his comments here when asked about what he believed were the most important factors that contributed to his consistent improvement over the course of last season:

“The biggest key is that I want to know everything about the game and I’m always ready to learn more about it. Last season I learned more about the game than in past seasons. The teammates that were around me also helped, if it was just watching and learning, or picking their mind on how they thought a process through. That’s where you can mold your game and continually add more on it.”

So Ty Powell credits his teammates with helping him learn more about the game than he has in the past. That statement certainly bodes well for team chemistry. It also goes reinforces his insatiable desire to learn from others.

However, his desire to learn from others is only one personality trait that will serve to catapult his career to the next level this season. If you pay attention to what Ty Powell says about himself and others, it’s clear that he is what we refer to in psychobabble terms as ‘internally oriented”.

I’ve written about this in the past, but simply put, internally oriented people are motivated chiefly by their own thoughts and desires. Conversely, externally oriented individuals are more motivated by forces outside of themselves, and most often by how they think others perceive them.

Obviously that consists of two ends of the same behavioral spectrum. Most people are a combination of both orientations, but one usually dominates in terms of what motivates individuals.

I’ve used EJ Manuel in previous writings on the subject as an example of a person that demonstrates a more externally oriented type of personality. There could not have been a worse fit between a head coach and young quarterback than EJ Manuel and Doug Marrone. Marrone’s dour personality virtually extinguished EJ’s confidence over the course of two seasons with his abrasive and caustic personality.

However, internally oriented players like Ty Powell are generally impervious to this type of erosion in self confidence. That is because what drives athletes like Mr. Powell starts and stops within himself. This quality cannot be overestimated in its importance to succeeding in professional sports.

Powell completely understands that what it takes to achieve success is not predicated on outside forces or chance circumstance. He is not a player that looks outside himself for excuses or rationalizations about his performance.

However, Ty Powell is the type of player that will make the absolute most out of any opportunity that comes his way. He made that point very clear in Tyler Dunne’s aforementioned article when he described having a personal “chip on his shoulder”.
That ‘chip’ was not operationally defined in Dunne’s article, but Powell did mention that a player has only themselves to blame if they are cut by a team. ‘Nuff’ said.

Freak athlete, check. Internally motivated, check. Tireless work ethic, check. An insatiable scavenger who wants to learn from every situation he faces, check. A great defensive guru for a head coach who respects his game, check. A scheme that is a perfect fit for an instinctive player, check. Ty Powell ticks off every ‘intangible’ necessary to become an elite player in the NFL.

Opponents, underestimate Mr. Powell at your peril. He is already a standout player on a defense loaded with talent. Every aspect of what is bringing Ty Powell to the precipice of greatness is in place for him to take his game to the next level. Keep your eyes on 57 folks, he’s going to surprise a lot of people this season.

About Robyn Mundy

Robyn Mundy is Editor-in-Chief of the BillsMafia blog at She's a retired oncology nurse & psychotherapist who loves to write about her life-long passion for the Buffalo Bills, and occasionally something of clinical or social relevance. Robyn lives with her husband Gary and their dogs in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. Robyn is also a proud founding sponsor. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynMundyWYO.