“I’m a Jet for life”, says Bilal Powell after signing a one-day contract to retire with New York
Former New York Jets running back Bilal Powell officially announced his retirement on Tuesday, signing a one-day contract with his one and only NFL team. Powell played nine seasons in New York after joining the squad as a fourth-round pick out of Louisville in 2011.
"One of the most humble, one of the most thoughtful athletes that I've ever come across."
— New York Jets (@nyjets) April 26, 2022
Stating what the moment means for him, Powell, who last played in 2019, said, “To know that this chapter of my life is closure for me and to understand I’m a Jet for life,” per team reporter Eric Allen. “I don’t think too many guys can say that that came through and played this game.”
Powell ends his career with 3,675 rushing yards, the eighth-best tally in team history.
Though relatively unsung on a national level, Powell became a fan favorite in New York thanks to a relentless spirit and athleticism that provided some silver linings in the midst of the team’s ongoing postseason drought.
Powell’s final NFL season was the last part of an inspiring comeback, as some speculated that he wouldn’t play another down after suffering a neck injury in an October 2018 game against Minnesota. He instead made it back to play seven games during the 2019 season, earning 229 yards on 59 carries.
— Woody Johnson (@woodyjohnson4) April 26, 2022
During his time in New York, Powell gained a reputation for picking up hard yardage, namely in third-down situations. He notably finished second amongst 2016’s qualified running backs with a 5.5-yard average carry before picking up a career-best 772 rushing yards in the following season.
The Jets were 4-1 in Powell’s five games over the century mark in yardage, one of which was an overtime thriller in San Francisco that saw him earn 145 yards and score the game-touchdown in the extra period.
Signing a one-day deal with the Jets was an appropriate way for Powell to end his New York career. Powell told Allen that he had several opportunities to bail on the Jets and sign with a playoff team but always made his way back to the metropolitan area. Tuesday’s ceremonial contract ensures that he’ll never play a professional down without some sort of green gear.
“I just always chose to come back to New York because I always wanted to see the (Super Bowl) trophy come back here again,” Powell said. “It was a thing for me, deep down, when I signed my name on that contract to become a New York Jet, that I wanted to stay a New York Jet, and that was for me personally. I always wanted to see the trophy come back, not only for myself, but for the Jets fan base.
“I knew if we could just get that thing back, that atmosphere in that stadium, the culture in that stadium, is insane. I just always wanted to see that trophy back here.”
Per team reporter Randy Lange, Powell has returned to Louisville, where he has embarked on a new profession in custom home building. He’s also set to coach his son Tavis’ sixth-grade football team later this fall.
Though his time in the metropolitan area has officially ended, Powell won’t soon forget the impact the New York area, particularly its vocal yet supportive fanbase, had upon him.
“It’s not easy being a fan favorite in New York. There’s some tough fans out there,” he said. “But once they love you, they love you. It’s one of the (most fun) teams and cities to play the game of football in. That fan base on gameday, it’s something you just have to experience for yourself.”
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags