Miami Krop defensive back Travis Howard became yet another Florida high school star to leave his home state and head north to Columbus to play his college football. Howard didn't really like football as a youngster and only recently began to envision playing the sport at the collegiate level.
"I started playing football when I was five years old," Howard spoke of his early interest in the game. "I really didn't like football all that much really. For a few years I just played it for something to do. One year I remember playing in a youth championship game. I had a big hit on a player and everybody started screaming and going crazy. Ever since then I just loved playing the game and trying to make big plays. I've also played basketball, baseball and ran track, but football is my passion now."
Howard credits his parents for keeping him grounded and appreciates their support. His mother visited Ohio State with him for the Michigan State game and was a big factor in Travis eventually choosing to become a Buckeye.
"My parents are the biggest influence in my life," Howard stated emphatically. "They keep me motivated all the time. They have taught me right from wrong. They always lead me in the right direction and tell me what's good for me and what isn't. I can't tell you how strongly I feel about them.'
"My mom was with me on my visit and she loved it as much as I did," Howard explained. "If she was a football player, I believe she would have committed on the spot. She thought the coaches were very honest people and not just salesmen for the football program. She really encouraged me to consider Ohio State very strongly. She thought so much of Jim Tressel and I felt the same way."
Although Howard has lived in Miami all his life, he is looking forward to attending college at Ohio State. Surprisingly, he spoke of the similarities between Miami and Columbus.
"Miami is a very cool place, just like you see on television," he said with a laugh. "It's really hot here, but there's usually a nice breeze and it's comfortable. I know the Columbus weather is totally different, but the people seem very similar. In Columbus we went to some places on High Street and there was a lot of activity and people out having a good time. It reminded me of being out in Miami. I think both places are a lot of fun, with plenty of things to do and see. I'm looking forward to getting away and starting a new experience at Ohio State. I'm not worried about being away from home at all."
Howard is being recruited strictly as a defensive back by Ohio State, but he rarely leaves the field in high school.
"I play offense, defense and special teams," he said. "I play everywhere on offense because my coach knows I'm a play-maker and he tries to get me the football any way he can. I can line up at running back or wide receiver at any time. I can show up anywhere on the field. I do think I'm best suited to play cornerback at the next level. I believe I could play safety also, but I think I'm best in coverage."
Even though Howard is a tremendously versatile player who excels at many facets of the game, there is one particular aspect of the game that he likes best.
"My favorite moment in a game is intercepting a pass and returning it for a touchdown," Howard exclaimed. "Just to hear the fans screaming and to know you have changed the momentum in a game is a cool thing. If it leads to my team winning the game it's even better. I'm all about winning. If I do something good and it doesn't happen in a victory, then it means nothing to me. We lost a tough game last week that might knock us out of the playoffs and I'm still sick about it. You really might say that winning is my favorite thing, to be truthful."
Howard was admittedly overwhelmed by the entire Ohio State recruiting experience. He spoke about how his involvement with the Buckeyes began.
"Coach [Luke] Fickell was the one who had the most contact with me," he said. "He recruited me from the beginning. He was recruiting my teammate, Etienne Sabino, and Sabino came back from Ohio State last summer saying that the Ohio State coaches were asking about me. Then coach [Paul] Haynes visited my school this fall and showed me they were interested. They followed up with a phone call wondering if I had any interest in Ohio State. Once I told them I did, they really started recruiting me. I was interested in Ohio State because I knew about all the tradition at the school. Plus, Sabino had been up there for camp and he told me to consider them because he liked it so well. They have never seen me play in person and I never went to any of their camps. They just offered me based on my film and my reputation as one of the top defensive backs in the state of Florida. I was really under the radar until this fall and then things just kind of went crazy."
Howard's recruitment seems to have mirrored the experience of Ohioan D.J. Woods. Woods was a player who hadn't received many offers through the spring, yet once the first few offers arrived, they started coming in bunches. Howard went through a similar experience.
"I knew last year I was one of the top players in Dade County, but it seemed nobody else knew that, except for my coaches," Howard explained. "My first offer was from Central Michigan this fall. That same day North Carolina came in and offered me. Within a few days I received an offer from Miami and then it seemed every day or so I would get a new offer. They just started coming at me left and right. It would be Tennessee one day and Auburn the next. It was crazy, believe me. I believed in myself, but it seemed for a while that nobody else did. Then it just went nuts for and it hasn't stopped yet."
Even though he was gathering offers from many of the top programs in America, Travis Howard couldn't stop thinking about Ohio State. The coaching staff had made a good impression upon him and teammate Etienne Sabino kept mentioning how much he admired the Buckeye program. Once Howard visited Ohio State his decision became an easy one.
"Etienne would always tell me I needed to see Ohio State for myself," Howard explained. "I knew I was interested in Ohio State just from what I knew about the coaches. Once I visited Columbus and saw everything for myself, I was hooked. The atmosphere and the fan support was unbelievable. Sabino was with me and he kept telling me that he was right about how great it was there. We had visited a lot of great places together, but there was nowhere that compared to Ohio State for me. Not Auburn, or Tennessee, or anywhere else. I was all about Ohio State from that moment on. Really, I was just overwhelmed by my visit. I was just looking to find the school that was best for me and once I visited Ohio State, I knew I had found the right place. There would be nothing any other school could do to get me to change my mind. I've gotten to know [Buckeye recruit] Mike Brewster and I'm looking forward to being teammates with him. He started texting me a while ago and he was one of the first people I called after I committed. I heard a lot about Brewster from Etienne and what a great recruiter he was. Brewster said he's going to get Sabino too, now that he knows I'm going to Ohio State."
Howard admitted that watching the Buckeyes play has taken on a new meaning since his recent commitment.
"I watched the Penn State game last Saturday and I was going crazy watching them win," he said. "I just sat there and thought to myself that I'm going to be one of them next year at this time. Earlier this year I never thought I would be a Buckeye some day, but here it is. It's the best thing that could have happened for me. The funny thing is I rooted against Ohio State last year against Florida. I even bet Sabino that Florida was going to win. Things have changed now, though. Even though they lost I could tell that Ohio State was a great program. I think this is going to be the year they finish on top. I've been rooting for them all year, even before I committed."
The Howard commitment came after a great visit, but only after he received assurances from Ohio State that he really did have an offer. Howard discussed how he finally made the connection.
"Last Friday I decided I wanted to commit to Ohio State, but I needed to know I had an offer," Howard explained. "I tried to get in touch with Coach Fickell, but I couldn't get him, so I texted Taver Johnson to see if I did have an offer. I told him I wasn't sure if I had an offer or not. He sent me a message saying that I had an offer and that I'd had an offer from them for a while now. He couldn't believe I didn't know that. About ten minutes later Coach Fickell called me back and that's when I made my commitment. Coach Fickell was very excited and told me I would be hearing from Jim Tressel in the next few days. I missed his call this weekend and we haven't hooked up yet, but I'm sure we will this week."
Now that Howard has officially committed to Ohio State, all eyes are on teammate Etienne Sabino. Sabino has narrowed his choice to a handful of schools, with Ohio State being one of them. His decision should be announced in a few weeks and Howard is naturally hoping Sabino decides to join him at Ohio State.
"I was at Krop before Etienne was and he transferred in later," Howard explained. "We played together last year and we had a real good season. We started hanging out together and lifting weights and we became good friends. This spring we both were named captains and we had to lead our team through workouts. We ended up being pretty close. I told him last week I was going to commit to Ohio State, but I don't think he believed me. He thought I was messing with him, but when he finally knew I was serious, he was really happy about it. I'm not real sure where he's going to go, but Ohio State is definitely in it. It's probably Ohio State or USC. I'm hoping he comes to Ohio State and he knows I want him at Ohio State. I'm just going to keep praying that we can stay teammates for four more years at Ohio State. I reminded him last weekend that Ohio State was number one, and USC was losing again, but he just laughed at me. Hopefully, he decides to be a Buckeye, and I feel pretty good about that happening."
As is the case with all the members of the "Brew Crew", Travis Howard is an intelligent and outgoing young man. His enthusiasm in being an Ohio State recruit is unmistakable.
Join us next time as we take another inside look at the "Making of the Brew Crew."