Jets running back Bilal Powell views the game of football a simple way: compete and have fun in the process.
For Powell, competing and having fun is the same today as it was when he was a kid growing up developing as a player in Pop Warner.
Now in his second year in the NFL, Powell has made impressive strides during training camp in Cortland.
Jets fans were able to catch a glimpse of those strides Saturday during the Green & White scrimmage, as Powell proved to be one of the squad's top offensive performers. He looked sharp, scoring one of the practice's two touchdowns, catching an 8-yard pass from quarterback Mark Sanchez.
"It was real fun to get live with the defense," Powell said this afternoon, "get guys flying around and really have the coaches step off and see what you took in from the playbook."
Despite such a strong performance, he wouldn't grade his overall performance, rather stating: "There's always room for improvement. I went out there and just competed and am taking it just one day at a time and one play at a time."
As a rookie last season, Powell benefitted from the guidance of Jets RB LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson retired back in June, after compiling an 11-year career that ranked him fifth in NFL history in rushing yards (13,684), second in rushing touchdowns (145) and third in total TDs (162).
"With him being a future Hall of Famer and one of the best running backs to ever play the game, he taught me a lot," Powell said.
Powell acknowledged that Tomlinson was his biggest influence in 2011 and that he still talks with him from time to time. He said the best piece of advice LT provided him was to keep a positive attitude, compete and play football to the best of your ability.
"One of the greatest persons I've been around," Powell said. "Modest, down to earth and ready to teach whoever asks."
With Tomlinson gone, there is a special opportunity for Powell this season if he elects to take advantage of it.
"I'm a lot more confident than last year," he said, "knowing what I'm doing out there."
Confidence is a key element for the former Louisville product because he believes he plays much faster when his level is high.
Defensive end Mike DeVito described Powell as a speed-type back that will bounce out and cut back inside.
"Bilal's a great player," DeVito said. "You see him just making that progress and stepping up. We're really excited to have him on the team."
Powell said the biggest challenge so far in his second season is getting onto the field with the ones, but credits some of his progress to running backs coach Anthony Lynn.
"Coach Lynn is a good coach and he gives some good pointers," Powell said. "One of the things with him is he likes to step back and see what you know, and I like that. It allows you to grow up and go play football."
The 5'10'', 204-pounder said he is much more comfortable than he was a year ago and hopes his hard work continues to pay off. And as the Jets transition back to the approach of ground and pound this season, don't expect Powell to change. Instead, expect him to remain competitive and fun.
"I'm real thankful and truly blessed to be here," he said. "It's a slight chance of making it here, and I'm here. Like I said, it's still a little kid's game still. It's still football at the end of the day, and I'm thankful."