Not every journey is an easy one. Sometimes you have to take a few detours in order to get to the place you need to be, including in your life.
Foothill (CA) DT Howard Houston (6'1" 300 4.8 forty), originally from Columbia (MO), has taken a difficult journey in life and football that could ultimately lead him back to his hometown, and playing for the Missouri Tigers. The talented defensive tackle will be visiting Mizzou the first week of June with the possiblity of joining the Tigers for the 2015 season.
ShowMeMizzou.com spoke with Houston about his recruitment, and how he went from not playing high school football, to being a highly coveted defensive line prospect.
"I went to Hickman high school in Columbia, but I never really played football, just some JV, which didn't really count to me. I played basketball instead and was pretty good. It's just that I knew that there wasn't much of a future for a 6'1" center in college or beyond. One of the football coaches told me I should come out for football, so I thought i'd give it a shot. It was really different. I loved the game and the physical aspect of the game a lot, and got a good reaction,but it took a while before I got the chance to get into a game even though I got to travel with the team. After one game though, the head coach called me out and said I wasn't good enough to compete in the sport. It killed the dream and I actually dropped out of high school and hung out with the wrong crowd, but I went back and got my diploma. I still spent some time in the streets which was not a good thing," said Houston.
Seeing life in the streets had a big affect in his decsion to try and continue his dream of changing his life and playing football.
"Losing freinds to shootings and jail, the drugs and bad situations--just being in the environment I was in made me decide I want better. So, I started working out with my trainer Tyrone James, and he said, you move so well and are so athletic, you really should give football another shot, and said I should go to a JUCO and try and play. I explained how I never thought it would go anywhere. You hear negative things for so long and you start to believe them. Then one Halloween at a party, my cousin got shot in the back of his head; so I went to Tyrone and said, what was this football stuff you were talking to me about? Next thing I know I came out to California with a suitcase, no car, no money, but a dream to change my life and play football."
Things weren't easy for Houston after arriving in California. He told me about times where he was homeless and without food while trying to pursue his education and dream of playing football. After originally starting out at Riverside (CA), and a brief stay at Fullerton (CA), where he found out that they had no room for him on the team after he arrived, he ultimately found a spot at Foothills (CA) community college.
"I literally enrolled at Foothill right at the start of the season," said Houston. "In my first game I had a tackle for a loss, it was this big hit in the backfield, and when I made the hit, I could feel that things in life were about to change. Then I had a sack, and then continued to have success. Pretty soon afterwards I heard from a coach from Notre Dame who contacted me. Then I heard from Florida,USC,Oregon State, and pretty much every college after that the more success I had on the field."
Houston laughed recalling his conversation with the Notre Dame coach about his academics coming out of high school and his recruitment.
"I didn't know anything about the recruiting process or what it took to play college football. We went around for a minute after he asked me if I was a qualifier coming out of high school," laughed Houston. "I said, qualified for what? The idea of playing college sports back then wasn't anything I had in mind. This has been an eyeopening experience dealing with college coaches."
"I heard from Mizzou coach Josh Henson, and we had a good talk. He said to me, how come I have never heard of you? I recruit Missouri, including Columbia, and I had never heard of you. I explained my situation of never playing high school football, and the journey I have been on. He wanted to know about my acedemic situation and it was a good talk. He said that he and the defensive coordinator talked about me weeks later, and I talked with Coach Kul also. He said he loves my film and what I do. He said what I do fits in exactly with what Missouri does with their defensive linemen. They said that there was an issue and one of their defensive linemen would be leaving, and that they may have room for me."
Even though he is still waiting on an official offer from Mizzou, Houston is happy to be hearing from the Tigers.
"Even if I don't wind up at Missouri, I am beyond honored that the best defensive line coach in the country, Coach Kul, said he loves my talent and how I play. Just them ackowledging me and my skills is such an honor. I love Mizzou having grown up in Columbia and would love to play there, but will see. I am keeping my options open. I will be visiting there at the end of the month or the first week in June. We'll see what happens and if they offer," said Houston.
Howard told me that he is currently taking two classes he is waiting on grades from in order to be able to transfer to Mizzou. He also said that he would arrive at whatever school he chooses in July.
Houston has already visited A&M, Houston and Louisiana Tech. He is considering a visit to Rutgers.
"I like those schools I have visited. I also visited South Dakota State because I really liked the coaches. It was a nice play and option to keep open. A lot of people questioned why I would visit there, but I want to play where I will be happy. I am also hearing from Arizona State, Vanderbilt and Texas State who are all trying to get me to visit."
The atheltic Houston had 29 tackles, including 3 sacks and 7 tackles for loss his sophomore season. He self reports a 405-pound bench press, 650-pound squat and 315-pound power clean while running a 4.8 and tells me that he can do a backflip at 300-pounds.