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[author image=”https://www.the3pointconversion.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/pic-copy.jpg” ]Raphael Haynes, Atlanta, GA @mrcontroversy21[/author]
There’s laughter in the background and he chuckles and murmurs something to someone in his surroundings. Then he politely says “I’m sorry, spending time with my family before I leave to go to Orlando, Florida for the Russell Athletic Bowl.” I sensed he cherishes being around his family but also noticed how amped up and excited he was to get to Florida.
Darrien Howard is a senior defensive tackle for the West Virginia Mountaineers. Raised by his parents in Dayton, Ohio, he’s the oldest sibling to three younger sisters and a brother. Howard stands 6’1″ 300 lbs. but is athletic than most defensive tackles in college football.
Howard displayed his athletic ability in college showing his quickness while moving 300 pound linemen out of the way. “My greatest attribute is getting to the ball,” says Howard. “Another strong attribute I have is my passion for the game. I mean I play hard to the last whistle.” It’s evident that Howard walks the talk due to the fact that he not only get tackles for losses and at the line of scrimmage but you will see him five to ten yards out making a tackle on a wide receiver.
His quick hands paired with his nimbleness gives him an edge over most lineman. There have been plenty of times where Howard can be seen chasing down quarterbacks outside of the pocket from hashmark to hashmark making the tackle. This athleticism is not by accident. “A lot of my little league coaches would tell me how good my dad was back in the day,” mentioned Howard. Darrell Howard played linebacker in high school and defensive back in college at the University of Akron. Howard credits his father for his success as an Mountaineer.
“See ball get ball is all my dad use to say.” He was also coached by his father in little league. “Party at the ball is what my father used to teach us. I took that literally and still to this day it’s party at the ball wherever the ball is.” Like his father, Howard also played linebacker in high school before switching to defensive tackle when he got to West Virginia.
His mother also plays a part as a inspirational figure in his life. “My mother working 12 hours shifts just to get me in camp and so I can do what I wanted to do really inspires me and has me grateful for what she and my father has done in the past.” Howard realizes the sacrifice they put in which keeps him focused and never settling but always pushing to the limit. It also helped him get through some adversity that stood in the way of his dream.
“It was a point where my grades weren’t good enough in high school and I was going to have to go to [junior college],” remembers Howard. He quickly had to hone in and come to the conclusion that he couldn’t just work hard at playing football but had to work just as hard at being a student.
Howard also went through a tough period when he first arrived at West Virginia and had a hard time getting playing time. Howard played only five games in a span of two seasons, yet he kept his composure and stayed poised. “That was really hard, that was a really tough time. I just kept telling myself that this is what I love to do so by any means do it,” says Howard. “I told myself that I’m going to play my role and my time will come regardless. Just keep bettering myself during the process.” Howard stayed in the weight room and and worked hard off the field. Howard also had to switch from linebacker to defensive tackle. “It wasn’t as hard I thought, except learning new assignments from a different position. But I was good with my hands so I knew I could be successful,” explained Howard.
“I made it a big emphasis to improve and be the strongest in the weight room to show the coaches that I’m not here as extra body but I’m here to play and be productive on the field.” It payed off and he was able to get playing time. “I remember against Kansas State and my first play in, I got my first tackle,” says Howard. His mission was to send a message that he was ready and he was capable of playing at a high level. “I played every play like it was my last, wanted them to see that I cherished every moment I was in the game.”
Going into his senior year Howard got the nod to start at defensive tackle. Very excited, Howard knew this was his last chance to prove he belonged with the starters. “This season meant more to me than any other season.” Howard started all four season in high school but having only one year to start made him more focused and dedicated to showcase his talent. “I tried to make sure that this was my breakout season. I wanted everybody to really know me after this season,” says Howard. “I wanted to play every snap even if I was tired, I didn’t want to come out the game at all.”
Howard took advantage and had a season to remember. He registered 66 total tackles with six tackles for loss, three sacks, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble.. He helped the Mountaineers finish the season ranked #15 in the nation. In the Russell Athletic Bowl against the Miami Hurricanes, Howard recorded seven tackles in his final game as a Mountaineer. He will get to play in one more game as he was invited to play in the second annual Tropical Bowl on January 15 in Daytona, Florida at Municipal Stadium. “My goal is to play at the next level. I love the game so much that I want to keep going. I really don’t want to stop.”
The Topical Bowl can be heard live on The 3 Point Conversion Station https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-3-point-conversion-sports-lounge