At 6-3, 240 pounds, it’s hard to believe UTEP outside linebacker Thomas Howard runs a 4.42 40-yard dash. This amazing combination of size and speed has him near the top of many team’s draft charts at the position.
Howard racked up 85 tackles, three sacks and seven deflected passes during his senior season at UTEP. The son of a former All-American, Thomas Howard Sr., Howard’s aspirations go far beyond the football field. He can’t wait to give back to his community and support his family.
Howard spoke with ColtPower’s Ed Thompson about his football career, personal life and his meeting with the Colts.
Question: Tell me a little bit about your family, you have a daughter don’t you?
Thomas Howard: Yes, she’ll be 2 April 27. She’s daddy’s little girl and mommy’s little girl. She’s always so happy and I love to see her happy. Whenever I get back from a trip, to see here smiling and happy to see me…it always warms your heart. It’s going to be exciting to be able to play in the NFL so I can take care of my family. That’s a big thing for me.
Q: Talk about your speed and run support, do you feel those are two qualities that are the cornerstones of your play?
TH: Speed is the cornerstone of who I am. My father was fast, and God blessed me with the ability to run. I have the ability to play the run and the pass. I’ve spent enough time at UTEP playing man-to-man that I’m comfortable doing it.
Q: Your junior year they really turned you loose on the blitz, from your position you racked up eight sacks. Your senior year, they used you a little more in pass coverage, especially battling tight ends. Which year was more fun for you?
TH: Getting after it, lighting your hair on fire and just going after it, is always fun. You just let loose, that’s easy, just go and attack. As a senior I had to do more coverage and it just calls for more practice on certain things—one-on-one coverage, staying low and moving your feet in coverage. Both are fun and I’m very confident doing both.
Q: A linebacker is a physically demanding position, but you missed only one full game due to an ankle sprain during your collegiate career. Has your durability come up often when speaking with teams…that it is something they admire about you?
TH: Not so much, it helped me more at the combine. I was clean and didn’t have to go back for X-rays, which enabled me to get through the physicals a little more quickly than some of the players. It’s hard to dodge injuries. I’ve always said I was blessed to come out of college with no major injuries.
Q: You started at the weak side linebacker spot before moving to the strong side your junior year. Where do you think you project best at the pro level?
TH: I’m not sure. I feel I’d be able to play both. I just want to help a team wherever they’d need help. I’ll let them decide that and just go out and give it my all.
Q: You started your college career as a walk-on, has that helped prepare you mentally for the challenge of being a rookie in the NFL?
TH: It’s hard being a rookie in the NFL, it’s a tough challenge. You can prepare for it, but when you think about how long an NFL season is and how grueling it can be on your body and mentally it’s hard to prepare for it because you have the mini camps, the four preseason games, 16 regular season games and then if your lucky enough to go on to the playoffs. It’s almost like two full college seasons. It’s hard to prepare for that, it’s just longer than anything I’ve ever experienced.
Q: Where will you be on draft day?
TH: I’ll be in Texas with friends and family. We’ll be sitting around, probably playing some dominos, definitely eating some good home cooked food and all my aunts will be there. It’s just a good time for the whole family to get together for something positive. I’m excited because not only will I be drafted that day, but I’ll be able to spend it with people that I love. It will be like a small family reunion almost.
Q: For you, becoming an NFL player is about more than just playing football. Tell us how you’d like to use your status as an NFL player to help others off the field…
TH: I have ideas, but definitely I’m going to give back to the community. I don’t want to give away my idea of how I’m going to do it…someone might steal my idea. But I do want to go back to my community and help families in need, there’s always someone in need. I definitely can feel that because I came from that same situation. I have to help my family out at the same time. The family is where it all starts, those lessons you learn in the house you will take with you the rest of your life. That is the foundation for the kind of human being you will become. I want to be a positive influence for kids to look up to. If I can be a positive influence for one kid, that would make my day.
ColtPower Insiders will be able to read the rest of our exclusive interview with Thomas Howard where he talks about meeting Tony Dungy, his Combine experience, his father’s friendship with Dungy and much more!