April 30, 2011
Louisville, Ky. - - Two University of Louisville football players in running back Bilal Powell and offensive tackle Byron Stingily realized their dreams of playing in the National Football League when the two players were taken in the NFL Draft on Saturday.
Powell was taken as the 126th pick overall and the 29th pick in the fourth round by the New York Jets, while Stingily was drafted by the Tennessee Titans with the 10th pick of the sixth round and the 175th overall.
Powell, a 5-foot-11, 207-pounder, is the first Louisville running back taken in the draft since Michael Bush was taken in the fourth round by the Oakland Raiders in the 2007 draft. He is the second Cardinals' player to be selected after Johnny Patrick was taken in the third round by the New Orleans Saints.
A former standout at Lake Gibson High School, Powell had a breakout season in leading the Cardinals to a 7-6 record, which included a win over Southern Mississippi in the Beef `O'Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"I really didn't know what to think," said Powell. "It was a long wait, but I had a feeling that the Jets were going to take me. They brought me in on a visit and told me that they wanted me to continue to work hard and that I could end up back there. I am just so blessed and excited to have this opportunity."
Playing in 12 games, Powell finished second in the BIG EAST and 11th nationally in rushing, running for 1,405 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also caught 18 passes for 158 yards and three touchdowns.
Powell's 1,405 yards was the second-best total in school history and he averaged a healthy 6.1 yards per carry. He set a school record when he rushed for over 200 yards in consecutive games against Memphis and Cincinnati. In a 56-0 win over Memphis, Powell rushed for 204 yards and two scores, while following it up with a 209-yard performance in a loss to Cincinnati.
For his efforts this season, Powell was a first team All-BIG EAST selection and a fourth team All-American. He was selected to compete in the Senior Bowl in January.
"I feel so blessed that God gave me this opportunity," said Powell. "I look back at where I came from and my days at Louisville, and am excited to finally realize this dream. I talked to head coach Charlie Strong earlier today and he told me to make sure that I packed a coat because it's very cold up there."
Stingily, a former junior-college transfer, started all 13 games at offensive tackle this season and was a second team All-BIG EAST selection. He also started 11 games in 2009 at tackle after red-shirting in 2008.