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Ex-Brown Powers hired at Buchtel

Steve King, Staff Writer

05.31.2007

If only Ricky Powers can find a running back -- or really, any player -- as good as he was.

Powers, who played with the original Browns in their final two years of 1994 and '95, was hired Tuesday as the head coach at Buchtel High School in Akron, Ohio, where he starred nearly two decades ago before going on to Michigan and then the NFL.

As such, Powers becomes the second former Brown to become a high school head football coach in Northeast Ohio recently, joining punter Bryan Wagner (1989-90), a Medina resident who just finished a short stint at Doylestown Chippewa in northern Wayne County. Incidentally, one of Wagner's assistants with the Chipps was former Browns linebacker Frank Stams (1992-95), a native of the Akron suburb of Cuyahoga Falls and a former star at Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

This is the first football head coaching job for Powers, 36, who has also served the last four seasons as head baseball coach at Buchtel in addition to running the 100 Book Challenge program and the Play It Smart program, sponsored by the NFL.

Along with that, he has been an assistant coach the last five years at three Akron high schools, St. Vincent-St. Mary, Central-Hower and Firestone. In the latter two jobs, he worked under his old high school coach, Tim Flossie.

"I'm very anxious to get started," Powers said.

And well he should be, for he is stepping into a great situation. Tracing back to the days when he played there, Buchtel is one of the top programs in Northeast Ohio and annually churns out players who go on to college to play and, in some cases, become big stars as well.

Ohio State running back Antonio Pittman, selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints, is an ex-Griffin, as are Charlton Keith, who spent time on the Browns' practice squad last year and is now with the Raiders, and Ramon Walker, a fifth-round pick of the Texans in 2002.

Powers was that Buchtel standout runner before graduating in 1990. In fact, he and Robert Smith, who played at Euclid in suburban Cleveland, were not just the two top backs coming out of high school in Ohio that year, but also in the entire country as well, according to most observers. Although Smith was selected as the state's top player as a senior in 1989, Powers was named the No. 1 high school player in the country by the Dallas Morning News.

While at Buchtel, Powers regularly put up Jim Brown-like rushing totals, running for 1,700 yards and 28 touchdowns as a junior and 2,014 yards and 19 TDs as a senior. A huge Browns fan while growing up, Powers saved his best game for the most appropriate site -- in Berea at Baldwin-Wallace College's Finnie Stadium, adjacent to where the Browns had their in-season practice headquarters at the time, before they built their current facility just several blocks away.

In a Division II state playoff contest in 1988 against Macedonia Nordonia, he ran for 289 yards in a one-sided Griffins victory.

Powers went on to play his college ball at Michigan, becoming a rival of Smith, who spent three years at Ohio State before starring in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings.

Powerssigned with the Detroit Lions right after the 1994 draft as a rookie free agent. They waived him just before the start of that regular season, and he was signed by the Browns to their practice squad near the end of that year. He also spent most of the 1995 season on Cleveland's practice squad before the club signed him to the regular roster with three games left. He ended up carrying the ball 14 times for 51 yards, with a long gainer of 15 yards, caught a six-yard pass and returned three kickoffs for 54 yards.

The perception then was that Bill Belichick, the no-nonsense Browns head coach at the time, was a hard man to play for, especially in the case of younger players. Not so, though, says Powers.

"That might have been what the media believed, but I loved the guy. I thought all the world of him," he said. "We had seven running backs at the time, so he didn't have to keep me. But he did. He gave me a shot.

"Belichick also told me he planned to take me to Baltimore when the team moved there following the 1995 season, but then he got fired. They hired Ted Marchibroda as coach, and he brought in a lot of his own players and I never got a chance with the Ravens."

Powers made a brief foray into NFL Europe, known then as the World League of American Football, then retired. But that was OK, for he had gotten a lot from football, including an education, graduating from Michigan with a degree in kinesiology. And now he's been trying to give something back to the game through his involvement with young people from his hometown.

As a head coach at a high-profile program such as Buchtel's, he'll have an even better opportunity to give back.

"When I was playing for the Browns, I never gave a thought to being a coach someday," Powers said. "In the NFL, you've got to give your full concentration to playing. You have to keep your mind focused totally on that."

Powers said his coaching style will be a combination of all the coaches he's played for and worked with, particularly Belichick.

"I want to try to have the same patience and demeanor that he has," he explained.

He added, "I also have a real good staff. Ideally, you want people on your staff who know the things that you don't know, and who can do the things you can't do."

And maybe -- just maybe, if he's real lucky -- Ricky Powers will find a running back who can do some of the things that he used to do.