Ex-Montana Grizzly William Poehls keeps NFL plight in perspective

September 19, 2016

MISSOULA — William Poehls was tackling a woodworking project when the phone rang.

“I’ve got these projects for my wife but I don’t think I could do this for a career,” he joked with the sports writer on the other end of the line. “I’m not good enough right now, but I’m learning.”

The curious scribe was wondering how the big man was doing after being cut for the third time two weeks ago by the Tennessee Titans. After the first two times the former Montana Grizzly offensive lineman was invited to be on the Titans’ practice squad.

Not this time.

The difference between Poehls the player now and Poehls the player last September may be negligible. But life, like the NFL, isn’t fair.

“It’s a hard adjustment right now,” he offered. “I’m still trying to stay in shape, waiting for next week or even a couple weeks down the road. I’m trying to keep myself busy because if I don’t I’ll go stir crazy.

“It’s good just to have something to do besides sit and think about how I’m not on a team.”

The older this sports writer gets, the more he appreciates candor and unsinkable optimism. And successful types that handle humbling situations with class and perspective.

Sooner or later we’re all doomed to navigate a disappointing path. Most of us have encountered more than one.

When my turn comes around again, hopefully I’ll handle it like Poehls.

“My ultimate goal is still to play in the NFL,” the 24-year-old offered. “I look at this as a good opportunity to work out some kinks, be it sore muscles or things like that. A chance to get back to 100 percent so you’re ready to rock and roll when you get a call.”

Other than our first names, the 6-foot-8, 334-pound Poehls doesn’t have a lot in common with this 6-foot, 165-pound sports writer. But we do share a blessing for which there is no equal: The unconditional support of a spouse.

“She’s by far my best friend,” Poehls said of his wife Caylin, who was raised in Montana. “That’s how we started, as best friends. I kind of figured out she was head-over-heels for me from the start, but it took me a little bit (chuckle).

“It’s so important to have her supporting me and challenging me on a daily basis in a positive way to try to make me a better man.”

William insists football is what he does, not who he is. Maintaining that mindset has been important every step of the way in his NFL fringe experience.

“I loved playing, but I don’t necessarily care about the recognition,” he said. “I care about the platform I have. The way I can impact people just by saying hello or I can connect with a community. That’s just huge.”

With all the black eyes the NFL has taken the past few years, it’s important to note the league takes pretty good care of guys like Poehls. Although he’s not eligible for a pension, the league gives those that are cut a hand up with benefits and help in transitioning.

Fortunately Poehls already has a sweet plan in place. When he does decide to call it quits for good, he and Caylin will move back to Montana and William will finish the few required classes necessary to earn his sociology degree at UM. From there he’d like to attend a seminary and become a youth pastor.

For now though, there’s still some little boy left in William. The kind that itches to bust out the shoulder pads and once again breathe in the sweet smell of green grass kissed with dew on a plush NFL practice field.

“I think hardships and speed bumps all happen for a reason,” he offered. “They’re ways that God is trying to teach us something, whether it be patience, endurance ...

“I’ve been blessed to play football for 11 years. I haven’t had a hard life. The way I look at it, I could get a call today and be flying out tonight to work out tomorrow for a team. You never know. I have an overnight bag ready — well yes and no on that. But it’s not like I carry a lot of clothes anyway.”

Good luck, William. Montana will be all the richer on the day you return and we’ve got a no-cut clause waiting for you up here.

Bill Speltz can be reached at 406-523-5255 or bill.speltz@missoulian.com.