CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – For three years, Bug Howard always had a veteran ahead of him on the depth chart. Someone to lean on, to look up to and to provide guidance, both on and off the field. Now he’s the veteran wide receiver helping out the younger players behind him.
“When I was a young guy a lot of guys helped me,” Howard said. “You had Quinshad Davis, you had T.J. Thorpe… Those guys really developed me to get to know the offense.”
That helped propel Howard into a paramount role in the Tar Heels’ wide receiver corps in 2015. In arguably the most prolific offensive season in school history, Howard caught 29 passes for 488 yards and four touchdowns.
This season, Howard’s last in a Tar Heel uniform, the 6-foot-5 receiver has accepted the task of providing leadership not just for his position group, but also for the team in general.
“[It’s] being more vocal,” Howard said. “Getting young guys and teaching them and getting them to understand what it takes to be out on the field. You’ve got to know the little things and the little details and get them to focus on those things.”
For Howard, his leadership style contrasts with fellow senior receivers Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins. While that duo is rather boisterous by nature, Howard is more reserved and composed. With two very different approaches, younger players have a choice of which style suits them.
“It depends on their personality,” Howard said. “Some guys like a more mellow guy, like ‘Hey, you need to do this,’ and then you’ve got guys like Mack who just put it out there, like ‘Come on, man, you need to do your job!’ Some guys can take that and some guys can’t. It just depends.”
One particular receiver that worked into Howard’s camp is redshirt freshman Juval Mollette.
“He’s just like me,” Howard said. “He’s from a small town, and he likes a guy to come up to him and tell him what he should do right and not to put him on blast.”
The Rochelle, Ga. native extends his reach across the line of scrimmage to help defensive backs hone their craft. True freshman cornerback Patrice Rene has matched up with Howard for most of training camp.
“I’ve been teaching Patrice the ropes,” Howard said. “He’s a young guy so he’s got a lot to learn in what to look at in college receivers. He takes a lot of head fakes and stuff like that so we are teaching him not to do that. We know other receivers are going to come at him because he’s a true freshman but we can help him stand his own ground.”
While Howard is still adjusting to his new role among his teammates, he isn’t shying away from the responsibility. For him, the end goal is success on the field.
“I’ve always been an unselfish guy so I’ll do anything to help the team win,” Howard said. “If that’s helping the team by blocking, holding a kick, it doesn’t matter as long as we get the win.” If he can instill that attitude into other players, then Howard says he has done his job.