Ronald Powell focused on here and now with Saints

One day, Ronald Powell hopes, the words “former top-ranked high school prospect in the country” won’t be included in a story about him.

And now that he’s a rookie outside linebacker with the Saints, that day may be here soon.

“I never thought of myself like that to begin with,” the team’s fourth-round draft pick from Florida said Saturday during the second day of rookie mini-camp. “And it never kept me from working to get better every day,

“But as far as I’m concerned, the past is the past.”

Two knee surgeries that cost Powell his 2012 season and what likely would have been a first-round draft slot is the major reason he’s a fourth-rounder.

The first surgery came after he suffered a torn ACL in the Gators’ spring game.

With the likelihood that he would enter the 2013 draft if healthy, Powell had another surgery early in the 2012 season and was supposed to be back in time for the LSU game in mid-October.

But another setback left Powell on crutches for the rest of the season.

Powell did have a solid season in 2013. But despite the 6-3, 227-pounder’s declaration that he is 100 percent fit following the surgeries going into the draft there were knocks not only on his diminished explosiveness but also a lack of ability to shed blocks and otherwise reliance on his natural talent.

“I heard things like that from people,” Powell said. “But at the end of the day, they don’t really know me.”

Saints coaches had the expected good things to say about Powell on Saturday.

“So far, he’s handled what we’re doing well,” coach Sean Payton said. “He seems in good shape, but there are some positions that are more difficult to evaluate than others at this stage.

“We’ll know more when we get into pads.”

Added defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who with linebackers coach Joe Vitt, attended Powell’s pro day. “He’s got great desire.

“And even though he was injured, he knows he’s got a lot of upside.

“Ronald wants to be a great football player. And he’ll have that opportunity here in New Orleans.”

Plus, Powell has the incentive of turning that supposed unfulfilled promise into NFL stardom.

That was part of the reason why, even though he knew there was no way he was going to be drafted in the first round on Thursday and had little chance of his name being called during the second and third rounds on Friday, Powell watched the entire draft until his name was called with in the fifth round as the 169th pick.

The other was, for the first day, to be with teammate Dominique Easley, who missed almost all of the 2013 season with a knee injury but who still wound up being taken by New England with the 29th pick.

“Dominique is my close friend and my brother,” Powell said. “I wanted to be there with him.

“And then I had a lot of other friends getting drafted the next day. I was happy for all of them, but I knew God was going to have me going where I was meant to be.”

With the Saints, Powell projects as a backup to Junior Galette, Parys Haralson and Victor Butler, who missed last season with a knee injury. Powell could also make a major contribution on special teams.

Otherwise, Powell’s main role as a rookie should be as a situational pass rusher.

But obviously, it’s very early very early in the process to determine just how much of an impact Powell will be making.

“It feels good out here,” he said. “You want to start out just earning the respect of your coaches the other guys around you.

“I’m just trying to take it one day at a time and learn from the others.”

And as for that No. 1 recruit label?

“None of that matters any more,” he said. “I’m here with the Saints.

“That’s all that counts.”