If either player let their ego take over, even just a little, the last year might have gone drastically different.
But ego was replaced by goals. Self-indulgence was replaced by sacrifice.
That’s the short story of how Kapaun Mount Carmel graduate Ben Powers and Andover grad DeeIsaac Davis managed to replace junior colleges with Big 12 schools in that time.
And after spring performances that turned heads – Powers on the offensive line at Oklahoma and Davis on the defensive line at Kansas – they’ve both also turned themselves from unknown commodities into what look like players who could have an impact this fall.
“I just treat it like I don’t have anything, that nothing is guaranteed,” Powers said. “I guess I have this fear that if I don’t prepare right, I’ll embarrass myself.”
“This seems like it was meant to be,” Davis said. “I just want to earn my way. That’s the mindset I have.”
Their paths to the Big 12 went directly through the Jayhawk Conference, but couldn’t be more different.
Powers (6-foot-5, 320 pounds) was an All-Jayhawk Conference selection after one season at Butler Community College and one year ago was a senior at Kapaun with zero Division I offers.
After 11 junior-college games, he picked Oklahoma over offers from TCU, Texas Tech and Kansas State.
I just treat it like I don’t have anything, that nothing is guaranteed. I guess I have this fear that if I don’t prepare right, I’ll embarrass myself.
Oklahoma offensive lineman Ben Powers
After about half of Oklahoma’s spring practices, he was getting run with the Sooners’ starting unit at right guard – a switch from playing tackle at Butler. Powers heads into the summer as the presumptive starter, although a lot depends on how returner Alex Dalton recovers from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
“I don’t really pay attention to depth charts or stuff that’s online that says who will play or whatever,” said Powers, who has three seasons of eligibility. “The coaches never tell you anything specific (about playing time), they just say the door is wide open. They told me I outperformed their expectations, which is good. But I’ve still got a lot of work to do.”
Davis took a much more circuitous route. After graduating from Andover in 2013, he didn’t play his first year of college at Butler, then transferred and played one season at Eastern Arizona College before transferring to Highland, where he was honorable-mention All-Jayhawk with 82 tackles and five sacks last season.
Davis said he left Eastern Arizona after his father’s health started failing and he wanted to be closer to home.
“When I got back to Highland, I was a lot more prepared to play in the Jayhawk Conference than when I first got out of high school,” Davis said. “I think my attitude was just to rise to the occasion.”
Davis (6-3, 300) worked his way onto the Jayhawks’ two-deep in the spring as a backup noseguard and put on 15 pounds of muscle since January. After the Jayhawks went 0-12 last season, Davis already seems like a boon because he could provide much-needed depth on the defensive front.
“I’ve never conditioned or lifted as hard as we do here,” Davis said. “It was a little bit of a shock to me at first, but my body is changing. I feel myself getting stronger and faster. We’re all working hard, all pushing each other to reach a certain level. I feel like I’m getting in the best shape of my life right now.”
Oklahoma opens the season on Sept. 3 at Houston in 71,000-seat NRG Stadium in Houston. Kansas opens on the same day at home against Rhode Island.
“My goals have always been the same,” Powers said. “And I set my goals so far out there, that it would take so much to achieve them. So while I’m looking for milestones along the way, I’ve still got this ultimate goal out there to keep reaching for. And I’m not even close yet.”