Few Ohio State-Michigan games in recent memory standout like the 2013 iteration. The 42-41 barnburner saw 12 touchdowns, 1,129 yards of offense and nearly a bench-clearing brawl to boot. But the game is most remembered for the defensive heroics of then-redshirt freshman safety Tyvis Powell, who intercepted Michigan’s attempt at a game-winning 2-point conversion down one point with seconds remaining. The Bedford, Ohio, native became a huge Buckeye fan after the 2002 national title, and The Lantern got a hold of the man who knows all too well the significance of making The Play in The Game.
Q: What are your earliest memories of watching the Ohio-Michigan rivalry growing up?
A: I remember watching it when they were No. 1 and No. 2. I can’t remember what year that was, but that was when Troy Smith was there, and they had Mike Hart and all that. That was a good game. That was one of my favorite games when I was growing up. I remember that one. That was a classic year. And then I remember the year when we actually lost to them, after I committed. That was when Luke Fickell was the head coach. And they still almost won as bad as the season that people say it was. They still almost won that game, and I was mad when they lost.
Q: At what point when you were coming up did you realize that you could play in one of those games? Or when was the earliest that you remember thinking, “I could actually be playing in one of these games myself”?
A: Junior year of high school is when it started getting real to me. As a kid, you say you want to go there, but you don’t really have a plan of how you would actually get there. It’s just something you wish for. When I met my high school head coach, he was the one that said, “Ty, you could actually play in there. You actually have the talent to play in that game and go to Ohio State.” I asked him, “What did I need to do?” And he came out with a workout plan, and I followed the plan to a T, and I ended up getting there.
Q: Take me through that 2013 game when you were a redshirt freshman. Prior to the interception, what do you remember about playing in your first Michigan game? What was that experience like?
A: Man, it was crazy. The Big House was definitely loud. I knew we had a chance to go to the national championship. I remember that our defense was just struggling that whole season. We weren’t very consistent on defense, but our offense was rolling. I knew how big of a game it was, and it’s funny because C.J. Barnett, the day before the game, was like, “I’m about to make a play. I’m about to get on the HBO ‘The Game’ series.” I just started laughing at him like, “What’s wrong with this man?” Not thinking the next day I was gonna make a play. But going into the game, I just remember it was a hostile environment. We got into it with them coming out of the locker rooms. They came out hot. I don’t even think they had a good record that year, but they came out looking to do damage. I remember we were fighting an uphill battle. I remember jumping on a fumble that Ryan [Shazier] caused. Of course we get to the end of the game and [Bradley] Roby gave up the touchdown, and he was mad. They ain’t have nothing to lose. We all knew they were going for two. I would’ve gone for two myself. And I remember they came out in a formation, and we called a timeout, and I remember going to the sideline, and coach Coombs was like, “Tyvis, you know what’s coming. We ran this exact play in practice. They got the same formation that we showed y’all. They’re gonna run this play.” And I’m like, “OK, yeah, that’s right. I do remember the play.” Of course, they went out there, they ran the play, and you know, the rest is history.
Q: Were you nervous out there for that last play? Knowing that The Game and the rivalry all came down to that last play?
A: At that point in time, I wasn’t really thinking about that. I was just thinking about doing my job, making sure they don’t score. I wasn’t really processing how big of a game this was and all that. I mean, of course I understood the moment, but at that point I was too calm and trying to figure out, “OK, if they run this play, make sure to jump this route.” And sure enough, they did it. I was like, “Wow.”
Q: What was the feeling like when you came up from getting that interception?
A: I didn’t realize at the moment how big that was. I never realized this play might impact the rest of my life. I never thought of it like that. I just wanted to win the game, I didn’t realize at the point how deep the situation was, how big that moment was. After the game was over, I’m in the locker room taking a shower, and the media never talks to me. At that point in my career, I’ve never talked to the media before. Jerry [Emig], our media dude comes in, he goes, “Tyvis, they want to see you outside at the podium.” I’m like, “Podium? What is the podium?” I don’t know nothing about it. He takes me in there, and sure enough I stepped up on the podium, and I had never seen so many cameras and lights in my face. I’m like “Oh, my goodness.”
Q: How often do people ask you about that play now?
A: I think it’s one of those things that comes up around this time or when I’m talking to Ohio State fans. It’s not like an everyday topic. People tweet it to me and Instagram it to me, so I just watch that play. I never really have watched the whole game over. I might do that this year, become my new routine.
Q: How does that moment compare to winning the national championship the next season?
A: The national championship is definitely more memorable. I mean that whole thing was like something out of a movie for me personally. It’s something that you just talked about all the time, but to actually get there and do it –– and then I got MVP on top of that –– it was all kind of unexpected. I used to go in games, but never think that I would be the person to make the big impact of the game. I just always wanted to do my job.
Q: What do the gold pants that you’ve won mean to you?
A: My momma has all four pair of mine, and I need them back. I mean, of course the most significant one to me is the one pair that I made the play in. But yeah, I’m gonna have to come see her about that because she got all four of them and I need them back.
Q: From your perspective, what makes the rivalry so special? Why do you think it’s such a great rivalry in your eyes?
A: I think it’s a great rivalry because it’s truly one of those where the records don’t mean anything, and you really have the whole state –– like the whole state cares. It means something. It’s not a game. It means bragging rights for the whole year. It’s honoring the people that came before you, all the legends in that game, and just one play in that game can change your whole life, which I’m finding out. I think that’s why it’s so special.