Here are seven things to know, a mix of the statistical and the personal, about Jets RB Legend Bilal Powell, who signed one final contract and then retired as a New York Jet this week.
1. The Final Numbers
Powell assembled a quietly superb nine-year Jets career. His 3,675 rushing yards are eighth-most in franchise history, his 5,275 scrimmage yards seventh. Among Jets RBs, his 211 receptions rank eighth, his 1,600 receiving yards are seventh and his 20 touchdowns are tied for 13th. He's the only back in franchise history to unfurl four runs of 40-plus yards in the same season, which he did in 2017.
2. Setting the Stage
Powell accomplished all that and more following a solid four-year career at Louisville, which followed a superb career at Lake Gibson HS, which followed a traumatic upbringing in Lakeland, FL. A self-described "menace to society," Powell was violent at an early age. Without a father figure, he rebelled and turned to the streets of his hometown as an outlet.
"I got stabbed when I was 16, June 20, 2005," he told newyorkjets.com's Eric Allen in 2017. "I almost lost my life."
Over four days this summer, Powell went home and relived his harrowing experience. He opened up about his participation in gangs and the moment he decided to take a new path. He discussed his mother's unconditional love and the family he has of his own.
3. Pro Pinnacle
Powell built slowly but surely into a force in the Jets' backfield. His highlight may have been 2016. His 722 rushing yards were second-most in his career behind only his 772 the next season. He had a career-high 58 receptions for a career-high-equaling 388 yards. His 1,110 scrimmage yards were the best season total of his nine seasons.
Perhaps most impressive from that sweet '16 of a season: Powell averaged 5.51 yards on each of his 131 carries. Among the 97 times a Jet had at least 100 carries in a regular season, that is easily the best single-season yards/carry average in franchise history. Freeman McNeil is second with 5.21 yards/carry in the strike-shortened 1982 season.
4. Dynamic Run for a Walkoff Win
And within that 2016 season came one of Powell's best games and plays as a pro. The Jets traveled to San Francisco (a year before current HC Robert Saleh arrived as the 49ers' DC) at 3-9 as field-goal underdogs, and it got worse when the Niners opened a 14-0 lead.
But the Jets relentlessly closed the gap, led by Powell, who had 29 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning slash off left tackle for 19 yards and a dive into the end zone for the game-winning score in the 23-17 comeback win. That's the most recent walkoff TD by a Jet and the only walkoff in franchise history after a running play.
"Man, he's special," WR Brandon Marshall said afterward. "That was very special."
5. A Standup Fellow
Powell by that time had begun to loosen up with media and fans.
"I think I'm a lot more open," he said. "I was really protective of myself because of how I grew up and now it's like not everyone's against me. So It's allowing me to open up to certain people and that was one of the things that I wasn't used to doing."
And he said early in '16 that it showed a side of him that many people didn't know he had. "That I'm a funny guy. I think if you got to know me then you would see that I will open up more. Some of the guys will tell you that I'm one of the funniest dudes on the team. I've got some one-liners and once I get to know you I'm really outgoing."
6. Take It to the Limit One More Time
Another gem of a run came in 2017's Game 4 at home vs. Jacksonville, when the Jets answered the Jaguars' opening-drive TD on their very next offensive play. Josh McCown tossed to Powell, who slashed off his right side, hurdled, hit the turf untouched, then bounced up without hesitation and kept running all the way to a 75-yard touchdown.
And with that, Powell held a series of rushing landmarks. It was his career-long run, the Jets' longest run since Adrian Murrell's 78-yarder at Arizona in 1996, and the second-longest touchdown run in franchise history, behind Bruce Harper's, 78-yard score vs. Atlanta in 1983.
How appropriate that Powell's record dash came with Harper in the MetLife stands that day.
7. And Then the End Was Near
Powell's run of great luck and skill was stopped by a neck injury against the Vikings in October 2018 that ended his season and looked as if it would end his career. He rehabbed furiously, became an unrestricted free agent in March 2019, then ultimately re-signed with the Jets in June for one more season. At the end of the '19 campaign he was honored by his teammates with that year's Ed Block Courage Award.
"It definitely flew by pretty fast," Powell said with equal parts wonder and introspection of his time in green and white. "I just remember the veterans saying don't take it for granted because when you look back, it'll be gone. Entering year nine, looking at some of the young guys running around, it's like, 'Wow. It does fly.' "
It sure did. But so did Powell. Thanks for the memories, No. 29.