A private celebration and exclusive viewing event hosted by Howard was held at the Presidential Cottage at the Marriott in Prattville (AL). Glued to a big screen TV located in the second floor suite, a crowd of nearly fifty comprised of family, friends, media and former teammate Derrick Henry anxiously awaited for the seminal moment. Slightly over two hours passed before loud cheers erupted as the hometown hero’s name was announced on the NFL Network broadcast. Another 100 plus invitees on the first floor clamored to shower Howard with praise and shouts of approval. He obliged with a victory stroll filled with hugs and kisses from the adoring supporters.
The Autauga Academy High School (AL) product and 2016 First Team All-American by Pro Football Focus racked up 1726 yards on 114 career receptions in 46 games for the Crimson Tide. Howard set a school and National Championship Game record against Clemson as a junior with 208 receiving yards (five receptions & two TD’s) earning Offensive MVP Honors. He ran a 4.51 at the combine, second best for the position at the NFL Combine, benched 225 pounds 22 times and finished first for tight ends in the 20 and 60 yard shuffles and 3-cone drills.
Ozzie Newsome, a College and Pro Football Hall of Fame member, was the only other Alabama tight end chosen in the first round. The Cleveland Browns picked the “Wizard of Oz” 23rd overall in the 1978 NFL Draft. Newsome played wide receiver in the fabled wishbone formation three out of his four years (1974-77) as a starter for Coach Paul W. Bryant. His lone year inside was as a junior.
Technically, Howard is the first to play the position all four years at The Capstone and be a first round NFL Draft choice. Nick Saban has established many NFL Draft milestones during his tenure in Tuscaloosa. He has developed and produced first round options from the following positions - running back, wide receiver, center, guard, tackle, defensive end, defensive tackle, nose guard, middle linebacker, outside linebacker, cornerback and safety. Check off the tight end position from the list for Saban as the dynamic O’Terrius Jabari, AKA “Da Juice” or O.J. Howard to the Alabama faithful, accomplished the feat.
Alabama TE NFL Draft History (Common Draft began in 1967)
2017 O.J. Howard 1st Round 19th overall Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2012 Brad Smelley 7th Round 247th overall Cleveland Browns
1997 Patrick Hape 5th Round 137th overall Tampa Buccaneers
1996 Tony Johnson 6th Round 197th overall Philadelphia Eagles
1989 Howard Cross 6th Round 158th overall New York Giants
1986 Thornton Chandler 6th Round 140th overall Dallas Cowboys
1978 Ozzie Newsome 1st Round 23rd overall Cleveland Browns