McALESTER — McAlester senior Connor Powers grew up playing basketball and baseball. He attended Lakewood Christian School until seventh grade, when he transferred to Puterbaugh Middle School and started playing football.
A two-way player strong enough to play on both offensive and defensive line, Powers stuck with the sport and joined McAlester’s high school team, hoping to be a contributor.
Instead, Powers’ first year of high school ball lasted just two weeks, coming to an end at an August 2010 scrimmage at Wagoner.
“I blew out my knee,” Powers said Wednesday.
“I was a defensive end, and they did like a sweep. I was running, and me and Josh Peckio, he was at linebacker, and we were about to go tackle him, and someone cut me from the side.”
Powers said he suffered a fractured growth plate and a torn meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. Though he didn’t need full reconstructive surgery, he still had ACL surgery in November 2010, and a slow rehab process followed, with Powers spending the next six months slowly rebuilding strength and flexibility in his knee.
“I’d always get frustrated, but Mike Baker, our sports medicine guy here, I have a real close friendship with him,” Powers said. “Every time, he’d be like, ‘Next time when you come in, I want so many degrees.’ By that, I’d have to pull my knee as far as I could to get that degree (of motion), and I’d have a process and a goal to reach.”
Powers said he couldn’t return to football until his sophomore year, by which point other players had earned all the starting spots on the offensive and defensive line. Though he got into games as early as his sophomore year, Powers has had to wait until this year to become the Buffs’ starting right tackle.
“He was behind some pretty good players and some returning players, and he just kept on, kept on, kept on,” Buffs coach Bryan Pratt said. “And now he’s come out and had a great senior year. Really, really, played well, and what a great kid. If I need something done, call him, he gets it taken care of.”
Powers still wears a knee brace when he plays, and he said the knee still hurts after a particularly tough workout or in bad weather. But that hasn’t stopped him from starting every game and playing a key part in McAlester’s explosive running offense.
“Don’t let anybody touch Dalton or Caden,” Powers said, referring to Buffs quarterbacks Dalton Wood and Caden Pratt. “Pretty much, they’re somebody that I can’t let anybody else touch. And then blocking for Jarome (Smith), if we’re running a counter, he always ends up running behind me. So I’m always having to get my blocks right where he can make a cut to go downfield and do what he does best.”
As a sign of both the offensive line’s success and its importance, Powers said his unit earned the team’s offensive player of the week award after the Buffs’ Week 8 game at Bishop Kelley.
McAlester’s last home game of the regular season took place Friday against Skiatook. However far the Buffs go in the playoffs, Powers will get at most two more games at Hook Eales Stadium.
“It’s going by extremely fast,” Powers said. Once the season ends, he said he’ll most miss being around this “family” of teammates.
Powers said staying in football shape — especially the kind of shape necessary to play on the line — demands year-round work. So once this season ends, he said he likely won’t play another sport and instead enjoy having some free time in his last semester at McAlester High School.
When he’s not playing football, Powers said he loves hunting and fishing. He’s grown up on a ranch outside of McAlester and has always enjoyed the outdoors.
“My room’s full of animals,” Powers said. “I have a fully-mounted bobcat over my bed, an 11-point (whitetail buck) beside it, and then I have a turkey, a mounted turkey in my bathroom.”
Once he graduates, Powers said he plans to attend go to college, most likely at the University of Oklahoma or Tulsa University. He’s already taking Macroeconomics and Composition I at Eastern Oklahoma State College in McAlester, and once in college he said he’d like to study energy management and safety so he can work in the oil industry.
“That’s what my dad does, my family does, my uncle and all of them out in western Oklahoma do,” Powers said. “I’ve been around it all my life and it interests me.”
Powers has only had one year to really enjoy playing every other Friday at Hook Eales Stadium, a phenomenon he described as “something you can’t find anywhere else.”
But as a player often responsible for the success of McAlester’s offense, Powers has made sure his one year is a successful year.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.