MORGANTOWN — Sports cliché No. 873 — the big, slow, slow-witted football offensive lineman.
Ask anybody at any level of the game, and they’ll all say the same thing:
“Linemen often are the most intelligent and athletic players on the field,” said University head coach John Kelley, who ought to know, considering he has been manning the UHS sidelines for 36 years. “They need to know their own assignments as well as their teammates’ on both sides of them, adjust to pre-snap defensive shifts, read and react to the play as it unfolds. They have to be strong, balanced, quick, adept at hand-to-hand combat, utilize multiple techniques, and be consistent, calm and explosive.”
It’s no wonder that high school teams with senior-laden lines are often successful, and the Hawks are fortunate to have a senior leader at right tackle in Gavin Powroznik.
“Gavin’s been a starter at tackle and defensive end for us for four years,” Kelley said, “and he’s worked so hard on the field and in the weight room. He’s so intelligent and very experienced, so he never gets flustered and rarely makes mistakes. He’s always done whatever we’ve asked him to do, the kind of quiet leader you can build an offense around.”
Powroznik is shocked the time has arrived.
“I can’t believe we’re seniors,” Powroznik said, shaking his head. “In some ways, I feel like I’ve been on this field for most of my life, but it also seems like the time’s just flown by. I feel so fortunate to be out here with my teammates, soaking up like sponges everything our coaches teach us. And every day we get to work with someone like Rich Braham, an NFL lineman. Man, it’s such a gift, like being at lineman camp. He’s so technique- and detail-oriented, and it’s inspired me to be the same way as much as I can. We’re really blessed.”
While many offensive linemen prefer the proactive, kinetic power of run blocking, Powroznik definitely has his own opinion.
“Oh, pass blocking, for sure,” he said. “We call it ‘the quick six,’ that six-second count that gives the quarterback time to find open receivers — and nobody can cover our receivers for that long. We take a lot of responsibility as a unit to keep the pocket clean, and we love to make our skill guys look good. And when we start to hit for big chunks through the air, defenses have to back up, and that allows us to run more effectively. The more unpredictable we are on offense, the harder we are to stop, and the line takes a lot of pride in making that happen.”
An excellent student, Powroznik has been weighing some offers to play at the next level while keeping an eye on WVU’s Criminal Justice program, hoping eventually for law school to become a defense attorney — and a chance to protect the innocent, just like he’s been protecting quarterbacks.