Marvin Powell, the outstanding Jets right tackle in the last Seventies through the mid-Eighties and one of the most decorated offensive linemen in franchise history, died Friday at the age of 67.
Powell was named to five consecutive Pro Bowls, was named All-Pro three times and selected Jets team MVP once. All that after being selected by the Jets in the first round, fourth overall, out of Southern California in the 1977 NFL Draft.
"Marvin was one of the best linemen I've ever seen," said former Jets WR Wesley Walker upon hearing of Powell's passing. "He was just a physical specimen. He was just good. I just loved him."
Walt Michaels, Powell's first Jets head coach, called him "the strongest player on the squad" after the 1978 season. "He has great potential and I think he's just beginning to find himself."
"Marvin was one of Walt's first building blocks," said Frank Ramos, the team's longtime public relations director. "He was a very smart, technical tackle."
And Joe Walton, after the '84 season, said, "Marvin played as well as we've seen him play after using a tough offseason weight program to his advantage. He's always mentally prepared, makes few errors and shows good team leadership."
Powell started from day one, which in his case on the Jets was the 1977 season opener at the Houston Oilers, and logged 10 starts as a rookie. He was the RT starter in all nine of his seasons with the Green & White through 1985, playing in 133 games and starting 130, plus another five starts in the playoffs following the 1981, '82 and '85 seasons.
The season after his rookie year, Powell was united with fellow first-round pick Chris Ward, who moved in immediately at left tackle.
"Our bookends for the next 10 years," said Michaels at the time. Walt wasn't too far off — for their six seasons together, Powell and Ward were arguably the Jets' most formidable set of bookend tackles in franchise annals. They started 81 regular-season games plus four playoff games together at either end of the Jets' O-line.
Under Michaels and Walton, Powell was named to five consecutive AFC Pro Bowl rosters, following the 1979-83 seasons. He started at RT in the all-star games following the 1980, '81 and '82 seasons, then was selected but didn't play following the '83 season. He was also named first-team All-Pro following the '79, '81 and '82 seasons and received second-team All-Pro recognition in 1980.
Powell also was named the Jets MVP by a vote of his teammates for the 1979 season. He remains the only tackle to be selected MVP in the team's first 62 seasons and one of only two offensive linemen, the other being G Randy Rasmussen, who was voted MVP in 1977. Powell was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.
"Marvin was smart, he was intelligent," said Marty Lyons, the Jets' radio analyst who was Powell's teammate for seven of his nine seasons wearing his uniform number 79 in green and white. "He was the players' rep for us. He cared about the team, he cared about society. He wanted to make a difference."
Powell also famously told reporters that he had higher aspirations than football, such as being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, and ultimately to President.
"I feel I have the same purpose any American has — to effect the greatest contribution to the success of this country," Powell said in an interview with David Leon Moore of the San Bernardino, CA, Sun in 1980. "I hope I am an example, especially to younger people, that the effort is paramount. Too many Americans get caught up in the success dilemma. Just the struggle is important."
Powell never made it to that high of an elected office but he had plenty of achievements and honors outside of football. Early in his pro career, he was named an Outstanding Young American by the Women's National Republican Club. He was not only the Jets' player rep but also was elected vice president and then president, for two years, of the NFL Players Association.
He worked as an intern on the New York Stock Exchange around the time Lyons, Joe Klecko, Mark Gastineau and Abdul Salaam were becoming known as the New York Sack Exchange. Which is interesting because as Walker recalled, Powell and Gastineau really got it on during training camps.
"I would watch Marvin put Gastineau on his back," Walker recalled. "He and Marvin had to go at it all the time. Epic battles."
After majoring in poli sci and speech at USC, Powell returned to college for six offseasons to earn his J.D. degree from New York Law School in 1987.
He was a voracious knowledge consumer, reading tomes on the Roman Empire and the Third Reich and absorbing poetry and classical music, not to mention the recent history of NFL offensive line play. That last pursuit led him to study film of tackles such as Dan Dierdorf, George Kunz, Bob Brown ... and Winston Hill, the Pro Football Hall of Famer and even more decorated Jets tackle who was the last player to start at RT in the 1976 finale before Powell took over the position.
Powell was born in Fort Bragg, NC, and raised in a military atmosphere. His father, Marvin Sr., a retired first sergeant and combat medical specialist in the U.S. Army, fought at the Normandy invasion in World War II at 15 and also in Korea and Vietnam.
"I did what he said because he was my idol. He served with the 82nd Airborne, a tall paratrooper in a knockout uniform," Powell said of his father in a Chicago Tribune article in 1987. "I looked up to him like no other man. I actually had the best of both worlds as a child in reading material. My mother was religious, and she'd read the Bible every day. So I was exposed to the secular and the sacred."
But Powell, despite his varied intrerests and ambitions, never lost focus as a Jets All-Pro, Pro Bowler and MVP.
"No young American wants anything less than to accept as much as this country has to offer," he said in 1980. "And that is to be the best."
And as Ramos said, "Marvin had a very good NFL career and a good post-career. Whatever he did, it was something he was doing very well."