Florida linebacker Jeremi Powell and his alter ego, JP, have had opposite trajectories. On the football field, JP has seen all sorts of success. Meanwhile, Powell has a tough time off the field. His story is one of the most interesting and inspiring on the Gators.
When he was eight, his family, including his mother, Kevra Grimmage, two brothers, and sister were traveling around the state of Florida looking for a place to call home. As Grimmage struggled to find work, Powell and his siblings were basically homeless, going from relative to relative for about a year period. His journey took him to Miami, Gainesville, Live Oak, and Clearwater before finally settling in Largo.
It was a tough year for Powell and his family, as sometimes all five of them would stay in the same room. He and his siblings were told to be respectful as Grimmage searched for work, often times sitting quietly in their room or playing outside. After an incident with a plum, Powell was nervous to grab a snack out of the fridge and waited until his mother came back to eat something.
Finally, Powell and his family landed on their feet in Largo, where they’ve lived ever since. But even though they had found a home, Powell started acting out at school. It got to a point that Grimmage decided to send him to a “Scared Straight” program where he spent a day in a jail. That got Powell on the right track. He won Osceola Middle School’s Turnaround Achievement Award in his last year at the school.
His first year at Pinellas Park High School saw more of the old Powell. His grades were slipping as he started to cut classes. But an unlikely source, the Homecoming Court, refocused Powell to keep his anger and frustration to just the football field. That’s when his alter-ego JP hatched.
JP was a standout player for the Patriots, playing running back, wide receiver, and of course, linebacker. He started garnering attention of some major college football programs after his junior season and used a monster senior season to become a top prospect. His senior campaign saw many memorable moments, but maybe none more unforgettable than his performance against St. Petersburg High. Powell had a great game in all aspects, rushing for 80 yards and racking up 10 tackles, including a sack. But it was his clutch catches that will be forever ingrained in the Green Devils’ minds, as he converted a fourth and 12 before catching the game-winning touchdown pass with 21 seconds left. It was redemption for Powell as some St. Pete coaches weren’t convinced he deserved all the attention. JP showed them otherwise.
It wasn’t just Powell’s performance against the Green Devils. He was consistent all season long, averaging more than 10 tackles per game and notching 15 sacks. JP also had 45 catches on the season and was named to the AP Class 7A All-State First Team. He showed a tenacity, speed, passion, and mean-streak that got the attention of college football programs across the country.
According to 247Sports composite ratings, the 6-2, 200 pounder was rated as four-star prospect, ranked as the 24th OLB, 34th Floridian, and 226th player overall in the 2012 recruiting class. Powell held offers from Alabama, South Carolina, USF, Purdue and Iowa State, but decided to commit to Florida after stepping onto The Swamp’s turf.
Powell became the first person in his family to attend college and has seen success on and off the field. During his redshirt season in his first year at UF, JP showed his potential on the gridiron. He was named Scout Team Player of the week five times: Three on special teams and two on defense. His sophomore season saw much of the same consistency and intensity, this time in The Swamp. JP was an important part of the special teams unit, making four tackles before tearing his ACL against Missouri.
Now Powell will look to get back on the football field and continue to make an impact. Number 28 for the Orange and Blue has overcome much tougher situations than his current one. Hopefully the nasty and angry JP will see the field once again this season as the fun-loving and carefree Powell looks to graduate from UF and have a successful career in the NFL.