There is a Douglas MacArthur quote, which must be memorized by everyone who attends West Point. It is immortalized on granite between Michie Stadium and Holleder Athletic Center and reads, “Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that on other days, on other fields, will bear the fruits of victory.” As Blake Powers, the new fullback coach for the Army Black Knights repeated the quote his passion for football, the Army, and West Point was evident.
Where It All Started
Blake Powers grew up in Brandenburg, Kentucky, with an older brother, younger brother, and a baby sister. His mom was a teacher with numerous college degrees. She was also his biggest fan and the absolute loudest fan at every game. His dad built a successful GM franchise. “We grew up playing lots of basketball. There were lots of heated games growing up. Lots and lots of competition.” Powers said with a chuckle.
He grew up believing he would play college basketball and he was heavily recruited. However, after his junior year of high school, he decided his heart belonged to football. Powers had zero recruiting offers for football until he attended a Nike football camp. All of sudden he was on everyone’s radar. He was invited to the Indiana camp and made quite an impression. So much so that he was offered a scholarship by then head coach Gerry DiNardo and quarterback coach Al Borges.
As luck would have it, Powers was a diehard Indiana fan. His dad played tight end at Indiana University from 1975-1978 under Lee Corso. He attended games with his family growing up. Once Indiana made him an offer it was set in stone where he would play football.
“I was an Indiana fan growing up in Kentucky. It was pretty comical. I remember telling all my teachers I was going to go to Indiana and I was going to beat Kentucky in basketball. I ended up going to Indiana and beating Kentucky in football,” laughed Powers.
Blake was the starting quarterback his sophomore year at Indiana. 2005 was the season of records. He surpassed Antwaan Randle El‘s single-season passing record (17) with 22 touchdown passes. Powers also moved into second place on the single-season charts with 212 completions five behind Babe Laufenberg’s 217 a record set in 1982. He racked up 2,305 passing yards which put him fourth in school history at the time. Powers was well on his way to legendary status at Indiana University.
Unfortunately, in the first game of his junior year, he had a bad high ankle sprain. Like most determined and highly competitive athletes he tried to play on it and in his words, “It was way too soon, I played terribly, and lost my job.” He never regained his QB1 title. On the positive side, his backup status taught him how to put his team and teammates first. Which in turn helped him realize he wanted to coach.
After he graduated from Indiana in 2008, Powers went on to play Arena football for the Spokane Shocks. He also played for the Mahoning Valley Thunder. As Powers was making waves during his rookie season in the Arena League, “I was coaching high school football during the off-season and I ABSOLUTELY loved it,” he told us. Powers weighed the opportunities of continuing his playing career and how to kick start his professional career after football.
The Call to Serve
Powers felt he wanted to do something bigger than football. He had always been extremely driven and competitive. Nevertheless, he felt like he had not lived up to his full potential while at Indiana. He wanted to rinse the sour taste of failure out of his mouth. “I realized when I joined the Army that dealing with that failure made me more resilient. I assimilated well into the Army culture and realized I was built for it.”
He remembered his call to serve that was heard years before. It started like many others as he watched the second plane hit the Twin Towers on 9/11. Furthermore, he had a bigger plan “I thought if I served in the Army and it would make me a better football coach later in life,” Powers explained.
Consequently, Powers signed up for a three-year commitment to the Army through Officer Candidate School. While at Fort Benning he completed Infantry School, Ranger School, and Airborne School. Powers spoke at length about Ranger School and said, “Ranger school taught me more about myself than anything I had ever done.”
While at Fort Benning, General Robert Brown found out Powers had played at Indiana so he assigned him to play on the legendary Fort Benning Doughboys. Back in the day, the Doughboys would play Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia. While Powers was there he got to play college football again this time against some D2-D3 schools. Army played their Spring game at Doughboy Stadium and Powers was the honorary captain for the Army West Point team.
Powers’ first deployment was to Afghanistan as an infantry platoon leader before transitioning to the signal branch which is communications and IT. Powers’ second deployment to Afghanistan was as a communications officer. Once he was back stateside he served as a company commander in the 101st Airborne Division.
So, how did he end up at West Point? “One of my old commanders knew the head of military instruction at West Point he told me about a unique job opening up with the football team, as a military liaison between the coaches and the military side of the academy,” explained Powers. For his last four years of active duty, he was assigned to West Point and to the football team and wore multiple hats.
The Dream Job
“I was scheduled to continue progressing my military career this past summer when I was approached by Coach Monken and Coach Davis about potentially coaching. While I knew that I wanted to coach later in life, I thought I would retire from the Army and go back to coaching at the high school level. When they approached me with the opportunity to coach here it was a dream come true. It was an unbelievable opportunity that I couldn’t say no to.” Explained Powers.
Love At First Sight
Blake’s wife Carrie was a volleyball player at Indiana. Carrie grew up the daughter of a college football coach. She attended games at West Point’s Michie Stadium while her dad was coaching at Rutgers. It surely seems she was born to be a military wife as well as the wife of a football coach. The nomadic lifestyle of both professions was in her blood. As life weaves and intersects in curious ways, her dad, Mark Deal, also played for Indiana from 1975-1978. He is a mainstay at Indiana University to this day.
Blake and Carrie met at study table in college. He claims it was love at first sight. They have been married for 10 years. The Powers have five kids, a daughter, Ella Kate, a son, Eli, twins Lucy and Lucas, and their West Point baby, daughter Camille. They range in age from nine to two.
“Welcome to The Thunder Dome”
“A lot of college programs claim to be a family, we actually are here. We have players at our house all the time,” Powers expressed. “I can’t even tell my kids that the players are coming over until the day of. They literally won’t sleep and all they can talk about are the players.” He added, “When the players come over to my house the first thing I say to them is ‘Welcome to the Thunder Dome.’ It is complete chaos when the players are here. The kids love them and they love my kids.”
Powers and his fellow coaches live on post and live in “The Legendary Loop”. The Legendary Loop is where all the coaches from West Point’s History have lived. This includes coaching greats like Vince Lombardi, Bill Parcels, and Mike Krzyzewski just to name a few.
Coach Powers was passionate and thoughtful when asked about his favorite part of coaching. “Being around our players and doing everything I can to serve them as future leaders, husbands, and role models. While trying to guide them on a path that is better than the one that I took. I want to make sure they don’t make the same mistakes I did.” Powers said in his baritone voice.
Mistakes can be a variety of things big, small, or even kind of funny. Powers was a college football player having fun when he made the “mistake” of tossing a water balloon into the open window of the car parked next to him and his friends at a stop light. It just so happened that the ballon hit the face of an off-duty police officer. Powers stepped up and owned his mistake. He also took the brunt of the consequences so his teammates wouldn’t have to. That speaks volumes about his character and integrity as a man.
This is Powers’ first year as an on-field position coach at the college level. When asked about his long-term goals he offered this; “To be honest with you I just want to be the best position coach I can be. I learned in the Army that you need to be where your boots are. You also need to be the best you can be at your current position before you start mapping out your whole career.” With the drive and passion, Powers exudes he should have a long and successful coaching career, that will be exciting to watch.
So as Coach Powers and the Army Black Knights kick off their 2022 season on September 3 at Coastal Carolina, he hopes the field of friendly strife bears the fruits of victory.