SMU Assistant Football Coach Dies After Battling Cancer, Guillen-Barre Syndrome

Coach survived by wife, three children; funeral arrangements pending

Powell Family Photo

Southern Methodist University assistant football coach Jamal Powell, who had been diagnosed with incurable cancer and Guillen-Barre Syndrome, died Tuesday. Powell, who was four days from his next birthday, was 39.

SMU Football shared the news of Powell's passing Wednesday morning, saying on Twitter they were "deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jamal Powell" and that "Our hearts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time.

"It’s hard to put into words how heartbroken our family is, but we are so thankful such a remarkable and unique man came into our life. He made everyone he met want to be better. God bless the Powell Family.

SMU head football coach Sonny Dykes

Powell was first diagnosed with Guillen-Barre Syndrome after noticing pain while on a recruiting trip. After returning home to Dallas, he told his wife Rachel that he felt bad enough to check himself into a hospital.

After months of tests, doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center diagnosed Powell with the autoimmune disease. As he began rehabilitation to combat the GBS, he received another difficult diagnosis.

SMU football assistant coach Jamal Powell is in the battle of his life, but has the community – and the SMU football program – rallying around his family. NBC 5’s Pat Doney has the story.

“Stage 4 cancer,” Jamal told NBC 5 in August 2020. “They said it’s uncurable [sic]. We’ll see about that.”

Powell told NBC 5 the SMU football program, specifically Dykes and his wife Kate, were tremendous supporters of he and his family as he fought both diseases -- allowing him to move from his position as coach of the offensive line to serving as the team's offensive quality control analyst.

Meanwhile, friends rallied together to raise more than nearly $100,000, through Wednesday, to help the family pay Powell’s high medical bills.

According to his bio on, Powell joined the SMU staff in 2018 as an offensive line coach and most recently served as an offensive quality control analyst. Powell spent a season at Lamar before coming to SMU and coached two seasons at James Madison where he helped lead the Dukes to two conference championships and the 2016 FCS Championship.

Powell, who played college football at TCU, also played football professionally, spending time with the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans along with two seasons in the Canadian Football League.

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Powell is survived by his wife Rachel and two daughters, Jaden and Ellison, and son, William. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

NBC 5's Pat Doney contributed to this report.

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