It was hard to miss Ben Powers at Big 12 media days on Monday.
Reporters gathered around him, players on other teams stopped to congratulate him on earning preseason all-conference honors and seemingly everyone in attendance ogled the massive ring on his right hand.
“It’s even bigger than I would it be,” Powers said. “And I thought it was going to be huge.”
Powers, a senior offensive lineman at Oklahoma, earned that ring and this status a year ago by helping the Sooners win a conference championship and reach college football’s playoff. He had a standout season while starting at left guard, and he seems poised for bigger things.
He always knew he was capable of this. But few others shared that optimism when he was living in Wichita and was an unheralded offensive lineman coming out of Kapaun.
“I had zero offers out of high school,” Powers said. “Zero. The best offer I had was Pittsburg State. I’m talking no Division I, no FCS, no nothing. Nobody wanted me. So I bet on myself and I went to junior college.”
That turned out to be the best move possible.
After a ho-hum high school career, Powers immediately became a star at Butler Community College. By the time his freshman year was over, he had seven scholarship offers from notable schools. He was such a hot commodity that he narrowed his choices to Oklahoma and TCU, then decided to enroll immediately and join his new team for spring practice.
The Sooners, who play their home games a mere three hours from Wichita, were the pick.
“The rest is history,” Powers said.
Looking back, Powers insists he was overlooked at Kapaun. He thinks he was good enough to play in the Big 12 back then.
Still, he wouldn’t change anything.
“It definitely helped me,” Powers said. “It did. Looking back, I’m glad it happened that way, because I bet on myself and I believed in myself when no one else did, and that really meant a lot.”
Plenty of college coaches wish they had Powers today. Since joining Oklahoma, he has twice made the Big 12’s all-conference second team and has twice hoisted a Big 12 trophy with his teammates.
Repeating that success could be difficult this year, though. Oklahoma is the unquestioned favorite to once again with the league, but the Sooners must replace Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Baker Mayfield and star offensive lineman Orlando Brown.
Not only were the talented playmakers, they were team leaders.
Oklahoma players will look to Powers to help fill that void.
“I’m impressed by his mentality, his aggressiveness and his drive to always be better,” OU running back Rodney Anderson said. “He has been a great leader for us, especially on the offensive line. With him added onto the other offensive linemen, I think we are going to have a great season.”
Powers expects nothing less. This is what he worked for after high school.
“It’s hard to lose guys like Baker Mayfield,” he said. “You can’t sit here and say it’s easy to lose a Heisman winner. It’s not. But we are ready to replace him. Him and Orlando have been leading the offense for two years. But other guys have been sitting back and watching them lead and taking notes. I was one of them. We are ready.”