Safety Chaz Powell during training camp practice. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Raiders undrafted free agent safety Chaz Powell started playing football at age 11 in the Baltimore area. He continued to play football after he moved to Pennsylvania in 5th grade. Powell added lacrosse, basketball and track and field to his repertoire, but made football his priority at the end of high school.
"I think track was probably my best sport," said Powell. "Basketball I was the big man and I was only 6' so I can't do too much damage down the post. I ran the 1, the 2, 4X1, 400, long jump, high jump, 4X4, anything they needed me to. I always put my team first, just go out there and compete against my peers every time."
He put all his focus into football when he started playing at Penn State. "It was a great experience playing for one of the greatest coaches in football ever," said Powell. "Joe Paterno shaped us into men instead of trying to get us ready for the next level or the next game. He was always preaching about your appearance, how you present yourself and respect others. He's made me into the man I am today – being respectful, being on time, just going out there every play and playing like it's your last."
One of the biggest skills he took away from his time at Penn State was versatility on the field. Powell played both wide receiver and defensive back during his four years. "Freshman year I came in as a safety and then they moved me to wide-out and then I played wide-out for two seasons," said Powell. "Then my junior year, I moved to defense that spring and then I moved back to receiver because one of our receivers got hurt. Then, I moved back to defense again in the middle of the season and then my senior year I stayed strictly at corner. It was just a great way to show my versatility, my attitude towards the game, that I'm humble, wherever you guys need me I'll be there at all times. I put my team first and put myself second because in the end it's all about winning. I've learned a lot playing both sides of the ball."
Powell played mostly cornerback his senior year in college, so the transition to safety with the Raiders was initially a challenge. The rookie has faced the challenge head on. "It was a struggle the first two days [of OTAs], then once I knew what I was doing and was able to go out and execute, everything just slowed down," said Powell. "In the end, it's just competing, getting your name recognized and going out there and showing the veterans you're dedicated, motivated, you're not just out here for the ride or just out here in the jersey."
The 6'1" safety doesn't model his play after any player in particular, but describes himself as versatile. "It doesn't matter if you need me to play wide receiver right away, if I don't even know the plays, I'm going to go out there and do it and do it with my best ability," said Powell. "Even if you need me to go play corner, I'm just going to go out there and compete. In the end, that's what you have to do is compete."
Powell knows he has to fight for a roster spot. "I'm going out there and every day that I step on that field in training camp, I'm going to leave it all out there 110 percent," said Powell. "I might even leave more out there because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Powell is seizing the opportunity, not only for himself, but also for his family. "My biggest influence would probably be my mom," said Powell. "With all our struggles and our background, all the things we've been through, to see her struggle now, it's time for me to be able to support my family and go out there and make a name for myself. I want to be able to make this team, contribute any way I can and go out there and just have fun. In the end it's all about having fun and competing. I think about making this team every day. Whatever it takes, I'm going to have to do it."
Powell will try to make a name for himself in the last few days of camp and in the Week 3 preseason match up with the Detroit Lions this Saturday, August 25.