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University of Washington Huskies Football

Once a walk-on, Mishael Powell’s dream keeps paying dividends for UW

Mishael Powell of the Washington Huskies intercepts a pass and scores a touchdown against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the fourth quarter at Husky Stadium on October 21, 2023 in Seattle, Washington.  (Getty Images)
By Mike Vorel Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Mishael Powell’s parents never miss a game.

With an unfortunate exception.

When Mishael – referred to as “Meesh” by coaches and teammates – sprinted down the sideline inside Husky Stadium on Saturday against Arizona State, his mother was more than 1,000 miles away.

“Ironically, my wife was not there. She had to go to a wedding in Arizona,” Darrell Powell, Mishael’s dad, told the Seattle Times on Tuesday. “She was trying to reach me because all she was getting on her phone was, ‘Your son is amazing! He’s changed the season!’ She’s texting me, ‘What did I miss? What did I miss?’

“I didn’t pick up my phone until 5, 10 minutes later. Then I called her back and sent her the ESPN link. She’s like, ‘Oh, I am sick. I am sick.’ ”

So were the Sun Devils.

Leading 7-6 with 8 minutes, 26 seconds left, ASU opted to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Huskies’ 12-yard line. Quarterback Trenton Bourguet took a shotgun snap, looked right and passed toward wide receiver Melquan Stovall.

The rest is Husky history.

Powell – a Seattle native and former O’Dea High standout – jumped the route, picked it off and returned it 89 yards (stepping through a diving Bourguet tackle attempt), while Husky Stadium erupted and exhaled. The junior “husky” nickelback said Tuesday: “Usually in games, I don’t really hear a lot, even when they’re cheering loud on third and fourth down. But on that specific play, as soon as I caught it I could feel everyone yelling. I was just like, ‘Oh, it’s loud. I really got to go now.’ ”

As Meesh went, Darrell Powell stood in the 200 level on the northwest side, surrounded by family members, surreally repeating the same three words:

That’s my son.

That’s my son.

THAT’S MY SON.

“I was in shock, like, ‘OK, that’s my son. I know I see what’s happening, but that can’t be happening.’ I was trying to process it all,” said Darrell Powell, once a quarterback and defensive back at Garfield High. “Once he hit the end zone, all you hear is the roar of the crowd and (you see) the flickering of the LED lights. It was just pandemonium up there. I was just like, ‘Oh my God, I cannot believe this. I cannot believe this.’

“I have a great relationship with the mayor of Seattle, (former UW linebacker) Bruce Harrell, and he texted me right there and said, ‘Your son’s place will go down in the history books of Husky football. He just saved the season.’

For Darrell Powell, seeing is believing.

Originally, Mishael Powell didn’t seem destined for UW. The junior defensive back grew up an Oregon fan, saying, “I just liked their jerseys and the flash. They had De’Anthony Thomas and Marcus Mariota back then. But the older you get, the smarter you get.”

Mishael got smart enough, in fact, that Columbia, Yale, Cornell and Georgetown all expressed interest in the 2019 DB. His parents were both first-generation college graduates with Ivy League educations – as Yvonne Powell earned a Ph.D. from Penn State and a master’s degree from Columbia, and Darrell Powell secured an MBA from Harvard.

But rather than following in his parents’ footsteps, “Meesh” decided to walk on at Washington.

He chased a different dream.

“He was a walk-on. He bet on himself,” said Darrell Powell. “As a dad and an accountant, I’m conservative by nature. I’m like, ‘Son, I just want you to get your degree.’ He’s in the Foster School of Business. He graduates in finance this fall. So I’ve always said I want him to enjoy this, but I’m this conservative, forward-thinking dad. He said, ‘Dad, I’m going to play well,’ and he did.

“The reason why I get so emotional is because I couldn’t see this. He could. He just tells us, ‘Thanks for allowing me to live my dream.’ ”

Meesh’s dream keeps paying dividends. On Saturday, it helped the Huskies secure a 15-7 win over ASU and extend a 13-game winning streak. It kept Kalen DeBoer’s team squarely in Pac-12 title and College Football Playoff contention. He was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week and Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week as a result.

Regarding Powell – who earned a scholarship in 2022, and switched from corner to nickel last offseason – the pick-six was no surprise.

“We all love Meesh Powell, man,” UW co-defensive coordinator Chuck Morrell said. “That was an incredible play. I’m so excited for him. I challenged Meesh a couple weeks ago to take the next step in his game, transitioning into a new position at the beginning of the season and now really being able to own that spot. We’re seeing him the last couple weeks play really, really good football. When guys are starting to play at a high level, it’s never a shock when they step up and make a critical play.”

“The interesting thing about Meesh is, the very first day he came here they had freshman meetings,” UW senior linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio said. “I’m coming in, and him and Asa (Turner) are just coming back from a workout. I’m like, ‘What are you guys doing?’ ‘We just worked out.’ Before their very first meeting they already got work in.

“I knew at that point he would be a special player, because he already had it. When DeBoer came here and he was still a walk-on, I told him, ‘Hey, keep an eye on Meesh Powell. He’s a walk-on, but he works his butt off.’ He’s been working at this since he was 18 years old, so I’m not surprised that he’s making plays, man. I’m super proud of that guy.”

Through seven games, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Powell has contributed 15 tackles with five pass breakups, two interceptions and a tackle for loss. He had a tone-setting hit on running back Jordan James in UW’s 36-33 win over Oregon. On Saturday, he accepted the game ball from UW quarterback Michael Penix Jr. following his pick-six – and gave it to his dad.

“It’s sitting right here in my office,” Darrell Powell said. “My wife and I are on Hobby Lobby (online) looking for a case to put it in.”

As for Yvonne, she’s watched the pick-six “over and over and over and over and over” in the four days since, a self-imposed penance for missing the play.