Marvin Powell, one of Fayetteville’s most successful and decorated athletes, died Friday of heart failure at the age of 67, according to ESPN reports.
Powell was a graduate of Seventy-First High School and he went on to play football at Southern Cal where he won a national championship as a sophomore in 1974. After that, Powell played 11 years in the NFL.
“I think he has to rank as the most honored athlete, probably in any sport, that we’ve ever had come out of Fayetteville,” longtime Observer sports writer Earl Vaughan said.
“I don’t know of anybody else that would come close to the stature of Marvin Powell as an athlete that came out of a Cumberland County high school.”
Here’s a look at Powell’s accomplishments:
- Two-time first-team All-American at Southern Cal
- Blocked for future Hall of Fame running backs Anthony Davis and Ricky Bell at USC
- Won two Rose Bowls and Liberty Bowl
- Played for Hall of Fame coaches John McKay and John Robinson
- Part of 55-24 win over Notre Dame in which USC trailed 24-6 at halftime and then scored 49 points to win
- No. 4 overall pick in 1977 NFL Draft by New York Jets
- Played for Jets (1977-86) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1987-88)
- Selected to Pro Bowl five straight seasons from 1979-83
- Named All-Pro three times (1979, ’81, ’82)
- Elected NFL Players Association Vice President and then served two years as president
- Earned a law degree from New York Law School in 1987
- Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994
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Jets owner Woody Johnson announced Powell’s death and that of fellow Jet Jim Sweeney before Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh via Twitter.
“Our entire Jets family is saddened to learn of the passing of longtime and outstanding Jets, Marvin Powell and Jim Sweeney. We’re thinking of their families today,” Johnson said in a tweet.
More football greats honored Powell, too.
“One of the greatest linemen in USC history, Marvin Powell was as special off the field as he was on,” National Football Foundation Chairman Archie Manning said in a news release. “He was a powerhouse on the line, paving the way for future Hall of Famers Anthony Davis and Ricky Bell. He would go on to an amazing career in the pros while also earning his law degree. We are deeply saddened to learn of his passing , and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and the entire USC community.”
“Marvin was my best friend when we played,” former Jets receiver Wesley Walker told ESPN. “We were drafted together, and he was the best man at my wedding. He was very intelligent, just a physical specimen on the field but a teddy bear off it. A sweetheart of a guy.”
Vaughan remembers a story Powell told about his recruitment in the 1970s when he played for coach Jim Boyette at Seventy-First.
One of the nation’s top programs (not based in North Carolina) came to visit Powell back when recruiting was not so heavily policed. “They almost literally kidnapped him,” Vaughan recalled Powell saying. “They put him in a car and drove him around for hours, trying to get him to commit.”
Powell, who would become a 6-foot-5, 270-pound force, joined players like Tim Heath, Greg Killingsworth and Gary Pellom to help the Falcons win the Eastern 3A Championship, which served as a state co-championship when no singular title was awarded.
“That team still ranks as one of the best football teams out of Fayetteville,” Vaughan said. “And then he was a national champion at one of the premiere college football programs.
“He didn’t have the opportunity to play on any truly great Jets teams but he was certainly a bookend for them on the offensive line, an unbelievable stalwart at that position.”
In an interview for a Southern California alumni publication, Powell talked about personal goals: “I was never afraid to set a lofty goal and then go for it. I didn’t care what anybody thought. My father always encouraged me to shoot for everything . The key is striving to achieve a goal. If you fall short, so what? At least you went for it. As long as you want it and are willing to sacrifice for it, it doesn’t matter whether you get there.”
Powell, who lived in Tampa, is survived by four children; Marvin III (who played nine games as a fullback for New Orleans in 1999), Jackson, America and Veronique, and three grandchildren, according to ESPN.