The Family Business: Will Powers

Princeton football fans appreciate Will Powers. They root for Will Powers. They just don’t want to see Will Powers play so often.

Don’t worry, he understands.

Powers is a two-time All-Ivy League punter for the undefeated and nationally ranked Princeton Tigers. He is averaging four plays per game this season, or about one play per several hours of practice each week. However, what he does with those few opportunities is what makes him special.

He knows how valuable a strong punter can be to a football team. He knows how valuable a strong punter can be to THIS football team.

It runs in the family.

• • •

When Powers hits in a home opener against Dartmouth this Saturday, he will do so at Powers Field. This is not a coincidence. His father, William (Bill) Powers ’79, was an All-Ivy League punter who made a generous $10.5 million gift to Princeton to fund the FieldTurf playing surface inside Princeton Stadium.

Bill Powers played a role in getting his son to Princeton, but it might not be the role you’d expect. Will, the youngest of five siblings, said his father never pressured him to choose his alma mater. He provided any fatherly guidance and advice Will sought during the process, but the decision always belonged to the boy.

The father’s more direct impact came years earlier, when his son realized the power in his kick as a football defender could translate well to the football field.

“When I started hitting and kicking in elementary school, he took me out and we worked on my drop for hours, just trying to perfect it,” he said. “He’s set a lot of records, and it’s a good competitive relationship. He’s pushed me because of what he’s been able to achieve as a footballer. It’s really special to have him give me advice based on what he’s done .”

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Will earned Adidas All American honors as a punter at Choate Rosemary Hall, and he spent several weekends playing his own game and then traveling with his father to a Saturday Princeton game. Those trips created his own bond with both the program and the current players, and it was that connection that drove him to choose Princeton.

Connecting with teammates was critical for Powers. He spent one year of high school fully involved in tennis and even traveled to Barcelona to train and compete. By his second year, he was back on the roster.

“The individual nature of the sport didn’t appeal to me,” Powers said. “Your wins and losses are solely independent, and it got a little lonely to be honest. The team aspect of football has always stuck with me, and I think that’s what brought me back to it.”

And that eventually landed him on a Princeton team that has its sights set on the ultimate goal in 2022.

• • •

Most of us kicked a ball and thought nothing of it. However, the margins of success for a bettor are slim and require both dedication and skill. There are three things Powers focuses on to achieve success in his craft.

“The biggest one is to be fast,” he said. “We’ve got guys chasing us as fast as they can, especially off the rim, so you’ve got 2.2 seconds max to get that point down. Second, the drop is so important. If it’s a millimeter off , I can get away with it. Two to three millimeters, you’re playing with fire. That drop has to be the same every time to have that high spiral turnover point. Third would be placement. You don’t want that ball in the middle of the field .”

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2.2 seconds. 2-3 millimeters. Placement on a specific side of the field. Defenders chase you. Limited opportunities to do your job, and if you make a mistake, the blame falls squarely on you.

Not that simple, right?

Still, Powers has been brilliant since earning the starting job as a freshman. He averaged 40.9 yards per punt over his career, which would be the second-best career punt mark in Princeton history. Of his 93 career punts, 28 have pinned teams inside the 20, and 28 have been fairly caught. Seventeen is more than 17 meters.

The numbers are impressive, but the impact on the team is what matters to him.

“You only get a few opportunities a game, so you really have to lock in as a specialist on every play,” Powers said. “I have 119 other guys around me. Even though it’s a very independent position, my team is supportive. I look at my position as trying to help my team, rather than trying to hit a long point. I consider myself as part of the I try to pin them back as far as possible to help the defence.”

His impact was felt and noticed.

“Will plays a position that may not get a lot of recognition, but his impact every week has been tremendous,” head coach Bob Surace said. “Not only did he consistently turn over field position when we were backed up, but he did an excellent job of pinning opponents deep in their territory.”

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Powers knows Surace believes in him, but that doesn’t mean he’ll send him out every fourth time. This is an interesting dynamic for a punter in an aggressive and successful offense. For all the preparation you put into your role, you know that the better your team is, the more limited your chance to play will be.

For example, if it’s 4th and 1, well, Powers will be ready … but he won’t exactly run onto the field expecting to get the nod from Surace.

“4th and 4 is probably a pretty good marker for the gray zone of whether he’s going to hit it or not,” Powers said. “Between Ryan Butler and our offensive line, I have a lot of confidence that we can get those yards. I want my team to do well, but I also put so many hours into my craft that I want to go there and do what I love. I never hope that my team does not take first place.”

“But maybe with a really big lead, I wouldn’t mind another point,” he added with a smile.

Powers, a Public and International Affairs major who became interested in entrepreneurship after his football career ended, experienced many big leads. He also posted 7-0 records in each of his three seasons as a starter. It’s the 8-0 feeling that has eluded him, and he would love nothing more than to have that experience this weekend.

“We’re focusing on taking this one game at a time,” Powers said. “The biggest thing is to stay humble but confident in why we’re here.”

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