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Powell's pro football dream becomes reality

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- This was always the dream.

Running out onto the MetLife Stadium field as a professional football player in front of a horde of adoring fans. Catching passes from an NFL-caliber quarterback. Pulling out the win in his first pro football game.

For New York Guardians tight end Jake Powell, a Monmouth (N.J.) University product who played his college football games less than 60 miles away from this field, this is all he ever wanted.

Last summer he got so close, as he was on the New York Giants roster, only to be cut on Aug. 31 on the eve of the NFL season.

Call Sunday the realization of a dream deferred.

“I feel blessed for the opportunity to play professional football,” said Powell, who went undrafted in the 2019 NFL Draft but signed a free-agent contract with the New Orleans Saints before being released. “Coming out into the stadium, seeing it filled as much as it was, the people screaming -- I was very happy about that. It was a great atmosphere to play a game.”

It’d be one thing to celebrate the Guardians’ 23-3 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Vipers across the country from friends and family. It’d be one thing if Powell did not produce on the field on Sunday.

Highlights: Guardians 23, Vipers 3

Known throughout his college career for being a terrific blocker, albeit with receiving capabilities and quality hands, Powell flashed weeks of enhanced training. Powell was among Matt McGloin’s favorite targets on Sunday, catching four of six targets for 28 yards.

“We’re getting this good coaching from people who’ve been in the NFL before and know what to expect from kids,” Powell said. “There’s a lot of structure, and they’re getting us really well. On a day-to-day basis we’re doing as much as NFL teams are. We’re in the film room, were working all day, all night. I was just a rookie in the NFL, so I would be hoping to play no matter what, but this is a perfect opportunity for me. I needed film, and I needed to play against very good competition.”

And he excelled on Sunday in front of a flock of more than four dozen friends and family -- “I had 50 deep, I think,” he said -- and a vibrant crowd.

“The XFL is doing a good job of marketing this league and putting their whole effort into it,” he said. “I think they may have learned a few things from the past and have taken into account what the players need and what the players’ goals are.”

In Powell’s case, that means plenty of practice, plenty of film and plenty of opportunity. Powell wants to make a living out of professional football. For now, he’s getting that chance.

“I know of so many great football players who don’t get the opportunity to excel at the next level just because of opportunity. Having this league to develop players, possibly to get back to the NFL, I think it’s the chance of a lifetime."