Rock Hill ties help ECU land Howard
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Jerry Howard's formative years in football were spent playing the
offensive and defensive lines because of his size. But instead of
knocking opponents down as a blocker, Howard uses that heft to run foes
over these days.
The 6-foot, 215-pounder, who plays for powerhouse Northwestern High
School in Rock Hill, SC, has developed into one of the top running backs
in the Palmetto State. Howard has racked up more than 2,000 yards
rushing over the last two years, including 1,570 as a junior in 2015
while helping the Trojans to the state 4A Division II championship.
The performance earned Howard his first college scholarship offer in
December from Football Championship Subdivision Western Carolina. Other
schools followed suit with Air Force, Appalachian State, Charleston
Southern, Charlotte, Colorado State, Gardner-Webb, Navy, Old Dominion,
Towson and Western Kentucky eventually extending scholarships.
But a familiarity with East Carolina, which extended an offer in
February, led Howard to make a verbal commitment to the Pirates on June
“We run the same offense here at Northwestern, which was a big plus for
them,'' Howard said. “But I also know people up there, some friends who
told me about the school and how my freshman year would go.''
Those “friends'' include
former ECU linebacker and current graduate assistant Brandon Williams
current Pirate cornerback Cory Seargent, both of whom
also played at Northwestern. Williams came to ECU as an invited walk-on
in the summer of 2011, but went on to earn a scholarship and a starting
job by his senior season in 2014. Seargent enjoyed an impressive
freshman season with the Pirates in 2015, appearing in nine games at
cornerback and on special teams.
“I talk to those guys a bunch, but especially Cory,'' Howard said. “I
know his little brother, and they are always talking. He (Seargent) told
me how important it is to focus on the school work as a freshman and the
rest will come with ease.''
The commitment to Howard by ECU's coaching staff was also a determining
“It came pretty clear when I sat down with my coaches and my family,''
Howard said. “They were like, 'There are a lot of teams looking at you
who want you to come to campus. They (ECU) offered and haven't even
looked at you in camp or said you needed to come to a camp.' ''
Earning a college scholarship to play football is a pretty big deal for
a guy who describes himself “on the chubby side'' when he started
playing the game in the third grade. As a result, Howard found himself
assigned to the offensive and defensive line positions where he spent
most of the next two years before getting a shot at running back in the
Howard stayed at running back when he arrived at Northwestern and spent
his first season splitting time between the school's freshman and junior
varsity teams. Adding about “20 pounds of muscle'' between his freshman
and sophomore years, Howard made an impressive varsity debut in 2014 by
rushing 85 times for 609 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught 33
passes for 294 yards and three more scores.
Northwestern's drive to the 2015 state title featured Howard running and
catching the football. He racked up 1,570 yards rushing and 19
touchdowns on 199 carries, while also contributing 39 receptions for 388
yards and six touchdowns.
Howard was at his best when it counted most for the Trojans. In a 30-22
state semifinal victory against Nation's Ford, he ran for 276 yards on
20 carries and scored three times. He capped the season by gaining 148
yards and scoring two touchdowns on 16 rushes in a 63-13 rout of
Lexington in the state finals.
Howard calls his 95-yard touchdown jaunt in the fourth quarter against
Nation's Ford a personal highlight for the season.
“They had punted and we took over on our five-yard line,'' Howard said.
“We were going to run something up the middle, but our coach changed it
and said to run an outside zone play. I just took off and went 95 yards
to the house.
“A lot of people think I'm just a power back, but I think that showed my
breakaway speed. When people ask me about my style I just tell them keep
your eyes open and don't blink because it could be quick and you might
miss something amazing.''
Howard will spend this summer working hard in hopes of leading
Northwestern to another state championship in 2016. He's also continuing
to listen to other schools that are continuing to pursue him in
“A lot of ACC schools and Big Ten teams have been talking to me,'' he
said. “Georgia Tech was talking to me and offered based on my test
scores. But as of right now East Carolina stands as my No. 1.''
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06/29/2016 03:15 AM