‘Willy P’ still packs punch in Riders run game despite being over 30 years old

If Craig Dickenson was judging strictly based on William Powell’s physical condition, he’d estimate the Saskatchewan Roughriders running back was 29 years old.

Powell is actually 33 years old, but his personal production would suggest he’s younger. The five-foot-eight, 210-pound ball carrier has three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons on his resume.

“You have to really focus extensively on your body. The primary focus is staying healthy throughout the entire season and being able to play at a high level,” Powell said.

“You have to put in extra work, whether that be at home or after practice making sure that you’re stretched out and warmed up properly.”

There is a rumour going around the Riders that Powell can bench press 400 pounds, but he hasn’t tested his maximum lifts in a while. Whatever training the man more affectionately known as ‘Willy P’ does it has allowed him to maintain his productivity, especially since arriving in Regina.

“I do still lift heavy, I tone it down during the regular season to prevent the risk of injury. I won’t go to my max, but I’ll make sure I throw some weight on there to keep my body together to stay strong and healthy,” Powell explained.

The only time Powell has been sidelined in his career was due to a torn Achilles tendon. He suffered the setback in the first pre-season game with the Ottawa Redblacks in 2016. It caused him to miss the entire campaign. He came back with a vengeance to post a single-season career-high 1,362 rushing yards in 2018.

“I went through that injury and I was focused on coming back better than ever. I stayed focused throughout the entire rehabilitation process and I hit the ground running when I was back the next season,” Powell said.

“It’s not a career-ending injury if you don’t want it to be, so those guys have a bright future if they want to.”

In his first year in Saskatchewan, Powell had 215 carries for 1,093 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and a career-high 12 rushing touchdowns — ranking second in the league in rushing yards and tied for first in majors. Powell was the focal point of a ground game that along with quarterback Cody Fajardo rushed for a league-best 22 touchdowns in 2019.

“I know that William is very eager to build on what he did in 2019. He loves football and he has a lot of football ahead of him. He’s one of the veterans that we’re going to lean on,” Dickenson said.

“He’s a tough guy and we feel very strongly about him. He’s fast and he can really run. He’s very strong and it’s surprising how much weight he can push around in the weight room.”

Dickenson wants Powell to give the Riders a consistently strong punch on the ground.

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