Death by a thousand cuts: Former Buckeye Tyvis Powell finds a way to laugh at adversity

Lori Schmidt
The Columbus Dispatch

Any biography of Tyvis Powell probably includes in its first paragraph a mention of him being named Ohio State's defensive MVP for the 2015 national championship game. OSU topped Oregon that night 42-20, and Powell made a team-high nine tackles. 

So one of Powell's most vivid memories of that contest is quite surprising. 

"My coach, coach (Chris) Ash, actually got on the phone that game and called me to the sideline, and he actually threatened to take me out of the game," he recalled.

Powell deepens his voice when imitating Ash: "He said, 'I'm going to have to pull out you out of the game.' Those are exactly his words, 'Yo, Tyvis, I'm going to have to pull you out of the game.' " 

Buckeye news:Ohio Stadium won't require fans' proof of vaccination, but masks are needed for restrooms

Powell laughed at the memory. But it would not be the last time someone would try to take him out of the game. 

After one more season at Ohio State, he signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent and was eventually waived during the team's brief playoff run. 

Ohio State safety Tyvis Powell had nine tackles, including this stop of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, in the 2015 national championship game.

Seven more teams, including the Cleveland Browns, would sign and release the defensive back. 

"When it happens the first time, it really crushes your world," Powell said "It's like, 'Man.' You've never been cut before. When you get on number eight? It's like, I've been through this rodeo before, so let's do this." 

In fact, he became so accustomed to someone asking him to return his playbook, the last time it happened, he decided to have some fun with it. 

He had, ironically, just made the first start of his NFL career, a Thursday night game in which he and the San Francisco 49ers beat the Oakland Raiders 34-3. Powell hadn't missed any assignments, but told teammates he felt like he was going to be cut. 

Ohio State football:Ohio State football is hosting 'FOX's Big Noon Kickoff' on Saturday. Here's what to know

His position coach was future Ohio State assistant Jeff Hafley, who assured Powell he had heard nothing of the sort. 

The next Saturday, though, as the team was getting ready for their walkthrough practice, the man who announces the roster cuts, the man NFL players refer to as the Turk, came to find Powell. 

"Didn't I tell you, y'all?" he said he told the entire locker room. Then he turned to the Turk. "I've been looking for you all week! I'm surprised I lasted this long." 

In his final season at Ohio State, Tyvis Powell had three interceptions, including one in his last game against Notre Dame.

The two went upstairs, where Powell continued joking around.

"I already know they're going to cut my head off. My world's going to be turned upside down, so I'm going to get some jokes in," Powell said he was thinking. And before he was officially let go, he turned to the man whose job it was to inform him.

"Ah, you've seen how well I played last week, so you're here to discuss my bonus that I'm about to get," Powell said. 

There was obviously no bonus, but there were plenty of laughs in what could have been a grim moment. 

Ohio State basketball:Ohio State's Seth Towns to undergo back surgery

Powell signed with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League this summer, but with CFL teams allotted only a limited number of American-born players, he was again told his services were not needed. 

He still wants to play and thinks he has the ability. He gets up at 5:45 a.m. each day and heads to the gym. "And I'm talking about a like coach Mick (Marotti, OSU's strength coach) workout," said Powell. "I'm in there, and people are looking at me like, 'What is wrong with this guy?' " 

Then he plays with his infant daughter, Leiliana, until it is time for him to head to the football field and do some skill work. 

Tyvis Powell with his daughter, Leiliana.

He returns home, often at that point hopping on an exercise bike for some cardio, until his wife, Laurencia, comes back from the middle school where she works. 

He admits there is no guarantee another team calls.

"Plan B was to make sure Plan A worked," Powell said. "But now we can talk about Plan C, and Plan C has always been either media or coaching." 

Buckeye football:Ohio State football to look at shortening running back rotation ahead of Oregon matchup

He's dabbling in both, helping out with some of the local football teams and broadcasting on 97.1 The Fan as occasional co-host of The Buckeye Show and analyst for high school football. 

He knows that at some point it's not going to be Chris Ash, or the Turk trying to take him out of the game, but time itself. He's making sure to find a way to laugh then, too. 

Get more Ohio State football news by listening to our podcasts