Cut from the team ‘three or four times,’ BYU walk-on linebacker Riggs Powell won’t take no for an answer

Non-scholarship player has worked several jobs during his college career to make ends meet, including his current position at the Utah County Assessors Office

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Senior linebacker Riggs Powell will start for the Cougars on Saturday when they face Boise State at Albertsons Stadium. Powell has been cut from the team several times and has worked several jobs to make ends meet as a non-scholarship player, but is now a starter for the 4-4 Cougars.

Provo • Riggs Powell has been cut from BYU’s football team so many times he’s almost lost count.

“Three or four times, at least,” said the 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior from Aptos, Calif.

But when the Cougars face Boise State on Saturday at Albertsons Stadium, the married non-scholarship player, who works 5-15 hours a week as a commercial data analyst at the Utah County Assessors Office to make ends meet, will make his third start of the season at outside linebacker.

He has also been a valuable special teams contributor the past two seasons. And yes, he has a beard card — a doctor’s permission to grow facial hair for medical reasons.

“I love playing football way too much to give it up,” he said. “It is so much fun. You can only play it for so long. You can play basketball and golf forever. You can’t do that with football. You gotta play it when you can.”

Even if it means sacrificing your own money and every bit of free time you have to keep playing, which is what the finance major who will graduate in December has done. His paid internship at the UCAO is just the latest job he’s had since arriving at BYU in 2015 as a preferred walk-on from Cabrillo (Calif.) College, where he played quarterback and safety on a 2012 conference championship team before a church mission to Lyon, France.

He’s also sold DirecTV in Houston, marketed solar energy systems in Orem, and been a financial analyst for Nu Skin Enterprises in Provo, among other jobs.

“To be honest, I’ve been lucky. I’ve been extremely blessed,” he said. “I’m playing college football at BYU, the school I always dreamed of playing for. It’s been worth it.”

Linebackers coach Ed Lamb said Powell, who has appeared in all eight games and made 13 tackles, is a great example of a player who persevered, believed in himself, and kept at it when others told him it was impossible.

“He always shows up with a great attitude, whether he’s a starter or a backup,” Lamb said.


When • Saturday, 8:15 p.m.


Former BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and his staff recruited Powell in 2015 as a preferred walk-on, then asked him to skip preseason camp and try out the first day of classes. He got cut, but was told to try again the following spring.

Coach Kalani Sitake and his staff arrived in 2016, and kept Powell on the spring roster, only to cut him again because he had shoulder surgery and didn’t pass a physical. But that worked out for the better because Powell went to Houston that summer to work and met his future wife, Houston Baptist indoor and beach volleyball player Melissa Fuchs, who prepped at Pleasant Grove High in Utah.

Melissa, who began her college career at Central Michigan, married Powell in 2017. She finished her college career playing beach volleyball for the University of Utah last spring and is now playing in Olympian Kerri Walsh Jennings’ new professional league in California.

Powell was the top salesman that summer in Houston and made enough money to keep his college football dreams afloat.

“Best choice I ever made, working in Houston. It has paid for the majority of my school and I met my wife there,” he said. “Last winter semester and this semester are the only times I have had to work during school. So that’s been nice.”

Powell tried out again in the fall of 2016, and made the team as a safety because he had dropped a few pounds working in the Houston heat and humidity. He was on the scout team but got to play in one game, a 51-9 win over UMass.

(photo courtesy Ari Davis/BYU) BYU linebacker Riggs Powell works away in his other job at the Utah County Assessors office.

He was moved to outside linebacker in the spring of 2017, but didn’t get many reps in spring practices and was cut again. He worked for Nu Skin that summer and was invited to try out again before the 2017 season. He appeared in six games on special teams and earned Lamb’s respect for his persistence.

“I once took him off one of our special teams, in order to get more guys rotating through our system, and he was really respectfully upset about that, and said how important it was for him to contribute any way he could,” Lamb said. “So, great example to his teammates.”

Melissa Powell flies back to Utah for BYU home games and lives with a cousin in Los Angeles, where she trains with her pro team and coaches a seventh-grade girls volleyball team. With four games remaining in his college career, Riggs Powell says he has never thought about giving up his dream.

“I thought about transferring a few times, just because I felt like I might not get a shot here,” he said. “The dream was always to come to BYU, like a lot of guys. I did everything I could to make that happen. I got cut three or four times. But I felt like my chance was eventually going to come. That’s why I stayed. And now I am living the dream.”


• Prepped at Northern California’s Aptos High and played quarterback and safety at nearby Cabrillo College

• Served a two-year church mission to Lyon, France

• Tried out for and made BYU’s football team in 2015, 2016 and 2017, but was cut “three or four times” before solidifying a role in 2017

• Married to Melissa Fuchs Powell, a former beach volleyball player at the University of Utah who now plays professionally in California

• Became the starter at flash linebacker after opening-day starter Zayne Anderson sustained a season-ending shoulder injury

• Has appeared in all eight games and made 13 tackles

• Non-scholarship player has worked at several jobs, including his current position with the Utah County Assessors Office