Powell honors grandfather at Cleats vs. Cancer game

MIHS senior defensive end competes for grandfather who died of cancer.

When Brycen Powell strapped on his helmet and pads and proceeded to compete in the Cleats vs. Cancer football game, the local defensive end kept his grandfather tucked away in the back of his mind.

The Mercer Island High School (MIHS) senior said he played the all-star showcase ClaimIt Bowl for his grandfather, Vic Heisler, who passed away from cancer a couple of years ago.

Playing in the game was a big deal for Powell.

“It was definitely a fun experience and meeting a bunch of new people and coaches, as well,” said Powell, who added that he was honored to represent his school at the charity game on Jan. 16 at Pop Keeney Stadium in Bothell.

Proceeds from the event benefit children and families battling cancer, according to the nonprofit organization’s website. The organization was founded in 2018 by “fearless leader” and former Washington State University running back Derek Sparks, who died from cancer in 2021.

Powell — whose MIHS head coach DJ Mims nominated him to participate in the game — played for Team North, which lost to Team South, 21-17, in one of the two matchups on the day’s agenda that featured footballers throughout the state.

Pat Heisler said that her grandson is dedicated to playing football and the family is proud of him reaping success and revering her late husband.

The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder received first-team 3A KingCo all-league honors with a voting nod from opposing coaches and led the league in sacks with 4.5 this season. Mims said that Powell possesses a solid frame to play at the college level and he’s been garnering some attention from four-year schools.

“On top of his measurements, he is a high motor player and someone that truly loves the game of football. He is always asking questions and seeking ways to improve his game,” said Mims, who also nominated MIHS senior running back Vince Catano to play in the charity game. Catano, a second-team all-3A KingCo honoree, was also chosen for the lineup, but opted not to participate.

Football entered Powell’s life at the start of his junior year when he finally put his rough demeanor into play. He thrived on the field during his two seasons with the Islanders and is looking forward to continuing his gridiron ride in the college realm.

“It’s always fun when you just go straight past your opponent, straight to the quarterback and make tackles. The aggressiveness of the game is fun to me,” he said.

For more information on Cleats vs. Cancer, visit: https://cleatsvscancer.com/

The Reporter asked Powell a series of questions to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into his life:

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When you’re talking and someone just talks over you. That’s pretty annoying.

If you could go to dinner with one person, who would that be?

Maybe just like another professional defensive end that can give me a little insight on some moves and we can practice after dinner. I’ve been watching Nick Bosa a little bit. He’s on the 49ers, so he played the Seahawks, and when I watched that game I was focusing on him when we were on offense.

What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve been given?

You never know unless you try.

What TV show really draws you in?

I’ve been watching “South Park” a lot recently (laughs). I think that’s pretty funny. I watched a little bit a couple years ago, and I got back into it because TikTok keeps bringing it up on my For You page.