But a quirk in his high school transcript made him head west to College of the Sequoias. Howard had difficulty with a class and thought taking it again in the evening would have solved the problem, but the NCAA Clearinghouse inexplicably prevented him from enrolling in a 4-year, despite allowing a teammate with similar circumstances to play at that level.
Despite the detour, Howard hopes to get back to the BCS level soon and says Michigan State is number one on the list of teams he'd like to play for next year.
"I've been clicking with the whole coaching staff," he said, mentioning good relationships with coaches Don Treadwell, Harlon Barnett and Mark Staten, "Basically everybody."
Howard takes the vicissitudes of the last two years with a philosophical shrug.
"Everything happens for a reason," he says. "I'm out here enjoying myself, trying to do what I have to do for school and on the football field."
He pointed to head coach Mark Dantonio as the one MSU coach he is perhaps the closest to.
"He's basically like a father figure," he said. "He always just keeps it real and tells me that, 'when you get out of junior college, you're going to have an offer here (at MSU) regardless, so you can play'."
He has never been on MSU's campus, but he says he hopes to make a trip to East Lansing soon when he returns home to Cincinnati.
Howard, a preseason All-American preparing for his final fall semester at COS later this year, is a big-bodied wide receiver who also has the ability to stretch the field.
"I just want the ball in my hands," he said. He sees himself in the mold of Plaxico Burress, his favorite WR.
Although he has not actually seen a sequoia tree yet, he said the area around Visalia (about a half-hour south of Fresno) in central California is pretty country, if a little dull.
"There's nothing out here," he said. Perhaps that's why he's been so devoted to learning the game of football, which he only began playing as a senior in high school.
Apparently he's a natural: Howard made 52 catches for 751 yards and 6 touchdowns as a freshman for the Giants last season.
When he gets some free time, Howard likes to join members of the Sequoias basketball team in pick-up games. He's always had a ton of talent on the hardwood (that's what he focused on before football) and it still shows.
"I play basketball with the basketball team all the time," he said. "They love when I play."
Along with Michigan State, offers have been made by LSU, Texas Tech, Purdue, Arizona, Memphis and a few others. After graduating in December, Howard plans to step onto a new campus in January, prepared to contribute.
"I'll be trying to go in … and do spring ball," he said. "Come in and be ready to play."
Join in the conversation about Howard and other Spartan prospects on GSN's Spartan Insight Recruiting Blog