- Wright Thompson, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
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Five months after the NCAA Clearinghouse denied his eligibility at Ole Miss, blue-chip defensive tackle Jerrell Powe said he will re-sign with the Rebels. This time, he expects the result to be different. Namely, he will contribute to the 2007 team.
"The love for the game is just proving everybody wrong," Powe told ESPN.com on Sunday. "A lot of them wanted me to give up, but I can't let my mama down."
Powe's eligibility saga was big news in Mississippi this past fall, after the Clearinghouse announced that Powe, from Waynesboro, Miss., had completed his requirements only with "significant" assistance. Local papers printed comments from Powe's mother, filed in legal papers. One sentence in particular became fodder for area columnists as the importance of college athletics was debated in the football-crazed state: "Jerrell really is a good child, but he just can't read."
Behind the public spectacle was Powe, who felt embarrassed over the insinuation that he was illiterate and wanted to prove everyone wrong. After some saber-rattling about a lawsuit, he spent the remainder of the fall working on gaining his eligibility and staying in shape. He said he can read, and proved it by reading an article aloud for a Jackson Clarion-Ledger reporter. As one adviser said, "He is a very nice young man who has endured a lot."
After his own work, along with a plan devised with the help of Ole Miss, Powe said he feels confident he'll be successful.
"I'm proud of myself," he said. "I wasn't never going anywhere else. I'm going to Ole Miss. If I've got to sit out two more years, I'm going to Ole Miss."
Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.