Taylor Powell has Sept. 13 circled on his calendar.
Not for a game during Salpointe Catholic’s bid to repeat as Division II state champions, though the Lancers’ visit to Sunnyside the night before is certainly on his radar. On Sept. 13, the middle linebacker will shed his pads to watch former teammates Cameron Denson and Kaelin Deboskie of the UA Wildcats play Nevada at Arizona Stadium.
But after Powell’s verbal commitment to Nevada on Friday, he’ll be a Wolf Pack fan first and a Lancer second.
“It’s going to be really exciting seeing Cam and Kaelin out there playing against my future school,” Powell said.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 200-pound Powell devastated opposing offenses from the middle of the field last year, racking up 11ƒ tackles per game, including 21 for a loss. His performance earned him first-team All-Southern Arizona honors. It also piqued the Wolf Pack’s interest.
The three-star recruit picked Nevada over Mountain West rivals Colorado State and Fresno State on Friday afternoon, though he said his decision was set two days earlier.
“After talking to some of the Nevada coaches, hearing what they thought about me and how highly they thought about me, it really just made up my mind,” Powell said.
Colorado State remained a serious contender until Wednesday, Powell said, but he “just felt Nevada couldn’t be beat out.”
“First of all, it’s a football town, and you have to love that,” the three-year starter said. “It’s a really beautiful campus. Coach (Brian) Polian, the head football coach, doesn’t just treat it like you’re a football player and that’s it. It’s an actual family there, and I like that part of it.”
Before joining the Wolf Pack, though, Powell has work left to do at Salpointe.
The Lancers lose all but three starters from last season’s team, which went 14-0 and captured the program’s first state title in football.
“I definitely have big shoes to fill to be the leader of the team, but I know I can do it,” Powell said.
Nevada began recruiting Powell in early April. Once he looked at the school’s credentials, everything began to fall into place. The Wolf Pack played in eight consecutive bowl games under coach Chris Ault, including a 2012 New Mexico Bowl loss to the UA. Polian took over for Ault shortly thereafter, and went 4-8 in his first season.
“I definitely wanted to go to a school that I knew was on the come-up and was going to be making moves,” he said. “I wanted to go to a winning program.”
Winning is something Powell has grown accustomed to at Salpointe. Since earning a starting spot in his fourth game as a freshman, the Lancers have gone 33-3, with more blowouts than close contests. Powell said he needs to become stronger and faster to prepare for the pace of play as an inside linebacker in Nevada’s 3-4 defense.
Powell said he has a ways to go, but “by the end of this year, I’ll be there.”
And when Nevada hosts Arizona in 2015 at Mackay Stadium for the second leg of the home-and-away series, 364 days after watching Denson and Deboskie face his future team, Powell will be there. This time, his pads will be on.
“For every freshman, you go in wanting to contribute right away, but I understand that doesn’t always happen,” Powell said. “Whenever they need me to contribute, I’m ready.”