Oct. 15, 2013
When Darion Howard began his collegiate football career he followed in the steps of his father, Sherrod. Sherrod Howard was an all-conference tight end at the University of Northern Iowa, a school located just a few miles from Howard's home.
"I started playing football as a kid, that's just what we did. My dad played football so I wanted to play football."
Now, Howard is the starting tight end for the Florida Atlantic Owls, but his road to FAU began in the footsteps of his father and then traveled much further south to Boca Raton.
"UNI is where my dad played football," said Howard. "Coming out of high school, I had a couple of offers, but I was from Cedar Falls and UNI was close to home so I decided to stay there."
Things at UNI didn't follow as Howard had planned. He left the program and sat the following year out.
"When I made the decision to leave UNI, I had no idea what I was going to do or if I would even return to the college football field."
Then, Howard received a call from FAU linebacker coach and former UNI Assistant Coach Jovan Dewitt.
"I had never heard of FAU," Howard said. I'm from Iowa and we didn't hear much about schools this far south."
Dewitt was familiar with Howard, his family and most importantly Howard's work ethic.
"I knew that he had been released from UNI, I knew how talented he is and the type of kid he is," said Dewitt.
The phone call from Coach Dewitt and a visit to the FAU campus was all Howard needed to find his new college football home.
"Coach Dewitt called and told me that I had to come check FAU out for myself," said Howard. "He told me that I would have the beach right down the street and a new coaching staff that would give me a fair shot. That pretty much convinced me. I came down once and never looked back."
After spending a year on the FAU scout team, Howard earned a starting spot.
"What really helped was coming here and competing," said Howard. At UNI, I had my position locked down and never really had to compete for it," said Howard. "Coming here and having to compete for a spot, against some really good tight ends, has really helped"
Howard's hard work has earned him not just a starting spot, but the respect of his coaches. Tight ends coach, Jared Allen, believes Howard's work ethic is what sets him apart.
"Worth ethic means a lot to a coach," said Allen. "When you give a player things to work on and then you see their corrections the next week, you realize that's big time."
Now, Howard is focused on helping FAU win games in an effort to accomplish a big goal.
"First and foremost, I want to make a bowl game. At UNI, we didn't have bowl game opportunities. I always heard about them from my buddies, who went to FBS (Division IA) schools, so I wanted a chance to go to a bowl game too."
Now instead of following in his father's footsteps, Howard wants to blaze his own trail.
"I want to achieve more than my father," said Howard. "I like to hear his stories but, I want to write and tell my own."