By Mark Nagi

If you go to a Powell Panthers football practice, Walter Nolen is pretty much impossible to miss.

And college scouts certainly aren’t missing him.

The Powell defensive lineman is a consensus 5-star prospect, and one of the top recruits in the nation. 247Sports currently has him listed as the number two recruit in the entire nation for the Class of 2022.

“You don’t see guys that are that big, that quick and that athletic,” said Powell head coach Matt Lowe. “That really sets him apart. Whether it is him jumping over, hurdling someone after cut blocks that come his way or going up field, sticking his foot in the ground and going lateral down the line.  He just moves like a linebacker and he happens to be 6’5 and 300 pounds.”

Nolen transferred to Powell from Oliver Branch (MS) High School before the 2021 season, much to the delight of Lowe.

“You get excited, you want to see if the highlight tape is going to match when he is out here,” said Lowe. “Needless to say, we haven’t been disappointed.  He comes out to work every day, he bangs around… sometimes we have to ask him to pull back a little bit. Sometimes we need other guys to get in on the action. Everything he does is trying to get himself better and make the guys around him better.”

“I feel like I have been making a huge improvement since the beginning of the season,” said Nolen. “You can’t do nothing but continue to work.”

Tennessee is one of many schools in the mix for Nolen’s services. UT head coach Josh Heupel and his assistant coaches have seen Nolen play in person this year and would love the chance to bring him to UT next Fall.

So, what is Nolen looking for in a college program, and the recruiting process itself?

“Some things can get tiring, but you only get one chance to do it,” said Nolen. “You might as well enjoy it no matter how it comes… wherever I feel most at home at, wherever I feel like I can be best prepared mentally and physically is where I want to go after college.”

Lowe has sent a bunch of his players to the next level during his years as a head coach, and believes the sky is the limit for Nolen.

“I expect him to have an unbelievable career,” said Lowe. “Wherever he goes, whatever conference he goes into, wherever he ends up playing, he is going to go in and make an immediate impact. He is going to go in and compete.  On top of all the ability, he really understands football. On top of that, he loves to play the game. He comes out here and you see the excitement he has when the ball is snapped… when the ball is snapped you can tell there is a pure passion for football.”

“I want to be able to go to college and be ready as soon as I get there,” said Nolen. “I want to be one of those guys remembered for winning a certain number of awards in college and after college hopefully go in the (NFL) draft.”