Razorback Q&A: De'Arrius Howard
After chatting with Arkansas Freshman tailback De'arrius Howard I came away not only thoroughly impressed but also with a very unusual metaphor that I think fits him perfectly. Remember those shredded wheat commercials? (Yes, you read that correctly. Just be patient.) Remember the ones where they say, "For the adult in you there's the wholesome wheat side," and it shows an adult eating shredded wheat, then it says, "For the kid in you there's the frosted side," and the adult changes to a kid in really big clothes. You know what I'm talking about.
Anyway that is what De'arrius Howard is like. He is an extremely intelligent, well-spoken, courteous young man. In fact he even came 20 minutes early to our interview just to make it easier for me. Just when I was starting to think he was a serious all-business kind of guy, he sits down and tells me than he was just hanging out in his room watching cartoons and that he also loves to play video games.
Howard's character balance off of the field closely mirrors his balance of ability on the field. He is a very explosive runner with breakaway speed and the ability to make people miss, but he is also powerful enough to break tackles and to be an excellent blocker. His personality and skills have made him very popular among teammates as well as coaches. While I was waiting for De'arrius I spoke briefly with Coach Houston Nutt who referred to him as, "A dandy." I would certainly have to agree with Coach Nutt.
Nathan Striegler: You were torn between Tennessee and Arkansas last year in an intense recruiting battle. What brought you over to the good side (Arkansas)?
De'arrius Howard: The coaching staff. They are so family oriented here that it's really suprising. At most colleges you see the head coach over here and the other coaches off doing their own thing but here everybody is a big family. Today I saw coach Nutt and the rest of the staff in the union. They had just got done playing a game of basketball together. They were laughing and talking. So it was just mainly the staff.
NS: You and Cedric Houston were seen almost as a package deal in the recruiting class. Was there anything said between you two about going your separate ways?
DH: Actually we were going to go to the same school. It was just a lack of communication. We were planning to go to Tennessee together but then I heard that he had committed to here so I thought I would go here. He thought I was going to Tennessee and I didn't want to call him because I was getting a lot of heat from the coaches the day before signing day and I knew he was, too, so I didn't bother to pick up the phone. I saw him this summer and I was like, "Man what happened?" and he was like, "Man I thought you were still going to Tennessee." So we laughed and talked about it but that was how it turned out and I'm glad I'm here now.
NS: Will you have anything to say to him when you guys run into each other next year?
DH: I'll let the score determine that.
NS: We hope so. With so many young guys playing this year, how tough was it for you to sit out as a redshirt?
DH: It was a real big adjustment from high school when you're used to being the man and you know you're going to play. The first three or four games I thought I still might get in but after the fifth or sixth game I was like, "Well I really am going to redshirt this year." I'm glad I did though. I know the offense and I'm stronger and faster.
NS: What do you think about school so far?
DH: I like it. College is totally different than high school. They treat you like you're an adult and they don't press you. It took a while for me to get used to it. I had to learn to do it on my own. You don't have mom there to tell you you've got homework or come to class.
NS: Have you been keeping up pretty well?
DH: I've been doing allright. I've got to do a little bit better.
NS: You guys have a pretty hectic schedule and a lot to do. How do you escape from everything?
DH: Just relaxing. Watching cartoons. Hanging out with my brother. He moved up here. Hanging out with some of my teammates. The freshman class is really tight. I talk to my roommate, Tarvaris Jackson. We laugh and watch TV and play video games against each other. I don't let a lot of stuff get to me like most people do. I hate stress so I try to avoid it as much as I can.
NS: Me too. What games do you play?
DH: A lot of playstation games. I mostly play sports games not those action games. But that Grand Theft Auto is nice. I play that a lot and put those cheat codes in.
NS: I'll have to get those from you some time. How would you describe your style as a tailback?
DH: I think I'm a combination of speed and power. I've got a strong lower body and upper body and I also have that breakaway speed where I can get in the end zone. Some backs are all power. When they break they probably make twenty or thirty yards then they get caught. I think I have that combination of speed and power like Mike Alstott and Warrick Dunn put together.
NS: That sounds like a deadly mixture. I can't wait to see it. With the amount of talent that Arkansas has at tailback how do you approach that situation of competing for playing time?
DH: That's motivation. Every day you've got to come out there with your game face on. You can slip one day and Bam! You slip down the ladder. When I first got here I knew they had Cedric Cobbs, Brandon Holmes, and Fred Talley. But then you find out about Mark Pierce, Decori Birmingham, and others. It was a big adjustment. The older guys took me in and showed me the ropes. I really enjoyed that a lot. But I know I've got to come out every day and work hard to earn playing time.
NS: Have you been sending Christmas Cards and fruit baskets to Coach (Danny) Nutt?
DH: Nah. We laugh about it. Every day he tells me, "I heard you're getting stronger and faster." Then I'm like, "Yeah, I just want to get on the field next year." I was a cheerleader this year. I'd rather cheer for the defense then get back out there. Hopefully, I'll get my chance this year.
NS: You had some monstrous single game rushing totals in high school. Talk about a few of them.
DH: My Junior year I had 436 (yards) against Forest City and last year we set a single game record. In the first half I had 336 and 5 touchdowns against Russellville. We finished the game with like 800 yards. It was a national record. When they announced my yards at half, it didn't seem like that much. I was like, "Oh my goodness."
NS: You must have worn out several pairs of cleats. Did you watch the Super Bowl?
DH: I did. I was going for the Patriots because they were the underdogs. That's how I feel people treat us. I really respected what they did when they came out as a team for the starting lineup. Everybody usually does their own thing but they all came out at once.
At this point in the interview we were interrupted by a family that was trying to find the golf coach. De'rrius takes the time to explain exactly how to get to his office and even tells them when he thinks that their practice times are.
NS: So you're a secretary too. Do you make coffee?
DH: Yeah. What were we talking about?
NS: That first time when you score and you hear your name on the loudspeaker here, what are you going to do? Are you going to do a backflip or jump up into the stands?
DH: Hopefully. When I score my first touchdown here I want to score it on that end (He points to the South end zone where the stands go all the way down to the field). I've got to go to the crowd. I'm just gonna set the ball down then go have fun celebrating with the crowd and my teammates.
NS: Are you gonna take a seat and have some popcorn and a hot dog?
DH: Nah. I'm not going to do all that. I don't wanna show off and get a flag. I don't plan to do any fancy dancing. I'm just gonna hug and celebrate. I can't wait. I can't wait for Spring ball so I can show that I still have it and make sure that I haven't lost a step.
NS: You think you might be a little rusty?
DH: Yah. Gotta take the tools back out of the shed.