Nebraska has mountain to climb to get Howard

Sometimes it just happens. Whether it's a combine, a camp or even a season, one year you are known to a degree, the next you are a household name. While defensive end Jerry Howard hasn't achieved the latter just yet, he's hit the former with a fervor. A stout, super-quick defensive end out of Florida, this prep is grabbing attention from all over. The question is, though, as it is with all Florida kids, just how likely is it he will leave the state?

Not sure I have ever heard about something like this, but Orlando, Florida prep standout Jerry Howard wasn't allowed to play football when he was younger. Nope, not allowed, but it wasn't because he wasn't good enough to play. "They said I was too big," Jerry said of his younger days when he was already standing 6 foot, 2 inches and weighing almost 200 pounds. "So, I couldn't play then, but my dad said I was definitely going to play when I got into high school."

So, while other kids have grown up with a football in their hands, Howard didn't get acclimated to the sport until his ninth grade year. From virtual anonymity at that time, Howard has seen his game get better and himself get markedly bigger. Now standing over 6 foot, 5 inches and weighing almost 240 pounds, he's big, but quick as well, and using his impressive athleticism to terrorize quarterbacks from the defensive end position.

Of course, terrorize is a matter of perspective, but that only comes from Howard's play. To talk to him, you'd think he was just a big teddy bear that couldn't hurt a soul. His pads, though, will tell you a different story. "I let my play do the talking. I don't see a need to say anything out there," Howard said, recalling his 116 tackles, including 20 for loss, which includes 10 sacks. "It's not what you say that gets attention, it's what you do."

He's right there, and with stats like that, playing at both rush end and outside linebacker, Howard has plenty of potential suitors right now, not the least of which is the Florida Gators, one of the many would-be favorites for him, because they are a major program, they are in the state and it doesn't hurt that the actual team is pretty darn good.

And Howard won't deny that he's looking at Florida pretty hard. "I just got off the phone with coach Meyer today, actually," Howard said. "He said that from now on, he's going to call me "Gator.'"

Florida isn't alone, though, because outside of the state a few schools are going after him, Nebraska, N.C. State, Boston College and Wake Forest all trying to get his attention. And of those programs, he's got an affinity for one, equal to that of the program down in Gainesville. "I got an ex-teammate going to N.C. State and coach Amato says that he wants us to be like this matched set and he's a really nice guy," Jerry said. "I'd say that if I could see myself going anywhere out of state, it would be there."

The question continues to beg about going out of state, if that is even an option, though, Howard seems to clearly indicate that it is. But at the same time, he said that Florida is giving him the full court press, which has him mulling things over even more. "They really want me to commit," Howard said of the Gators. "I am just thinking that at the very least, I need until after this spring."

"There's still some stuff I need to look at, but I like Florida. I really like what they are doing."

For the Husker fans reading, Howard wasn't ready to totally rule the Huskers out, because he said of running back coach Randy Jordan, that he's developed a nice relationship with him. But it is potentially a little far, potentially a little too different in weather and it looks like he's got some pretty good choices a lot closer to home. "I know Nebraska has a great tradition, but I don't know much beyond that," Jerry said. "I guess if I were going to go to a place that far away, I would almost have to know that I would get a legit shot to play right away."

"I don't need anyone promising me anything, because it's up to me to earn my spot. I would just want to know I have as good of a shot as anyone else."

Howard is torn as to the visits he might take, but he's got camps scheduled at N.C. State, the annual "Down and Dirty" camp, along with the combine in Boca Raton, Florida on May 13th. There could be others, but that's all up in the air right now.

Jerry wouldn't say that there is one definitive favorite, but the interpretation of how narrow the list truly is, isn't going to be all that hard. With Florida putting on the full press right now, it's not certain even N.C. State could hope to catch up. But as for right now, while Jerry won't say it, it's pretty clear the Gators are out in front. And with a decision to come possibly as early as after the spring, it's hard to see anyone that can overtake them.

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