Star junior tailback Erick Howard was dominant in leading North Canton Hoover to a 41-22 win over Dunbar D.C. Friday night. Howard, one of the top prospects in Ohio's 2010 class, rushed for 185 yards and scored three touchdowns in the win. He also starred at middle linebacker and on special teams.
Howard, 5-foot-11 and 205-pounds, had briefly moved with his family to Seattle, Washington last month. He is now back at Hoover and is happy to know he will remain in North Canton to finish the next two years of high school.
"I feel blessed to be able to come back to North Canton," Howard stated after the game. "The type of football out there was very basic and not what I'm used to at North Canton. I begged my mom to let me come back here for my next two years of high school, and she said I could come back. The style of play we run under Coach [Don] Hertler is the way I like to play. I couldn't be happier."
Howard has formed a special bond with Hertler, one of the top coaches in the state, and he admitted his coach is someone he holds in high regard.
"Coach Hertler is like a father figure to me because I lost my dad when I was eight years old," Howard explained. "Coach Hertler stepped up and took an interest in me when I first came to North Canton. He helped me turn my life around after I had gotten into some trouble. He helped me get my life on the right path, and now I'm doing the right things and I think I'm where I need to be in my life today. I owe him a lot. He lost his sister last year and I know how much that bothered him."
Howard has earned the reputation as a future Division I tailback after two stellar seasons at Hoover. He spoke of how he perceives his strengths on the football field.
"I just think my greatest strengths on the field are my leg drive and my stiff arm," he said. "People tell me I have good vision in finding running lanes and that just comes naturally to me, I guess. Right now, I need to get in better shape because the move cost me some conditioning time. I want to get stronger and I know I need to get more serious in the weight room. I plan on doing all the things I need to do, because I want to play college football really bad. I will run track again because I know it helps my conditioning."
When speaking of playing college football some day, Howard mentioned some of his favorite schools.
"I was always a Michigan fan, but I went to the Ohio State camp last summer and now it's all O-State for me," Howard explained. "Ohio State is my favorite school right now, no doubt. The senior camp was really nice and it was great being there and seeing their coaches. Ohio State sent me a mailing just the other day. At camp I met with (head coach) Jim Tressel, (offensive coordinator) Jim Bollman and (running backs coach Dick) Tressel, and they all told me to I have a lot of potential. They said to keep on top of my grades and they would stay in contact. That has motivated me to stay on top of things in the classroom. My grades weren't that bad until the final semester of last year, but I have two years left and I know what I need to do to get to play in college. North Canton is a very challenging school academically, but that's good for me, and it will prepare me for college. I still like Michigan and I still like Miami (Fla.), but Ohio State is it for me right now."
Howard acknowledged he hasn't always taken schoolwork or his personal responsibilities, but insists his life is totally changed and he's feeling good about where he is today.
"I had to make some changes in my life and I did that," Howard said softly. "My mind was focused kind of on football, but also on having fun. I was too worried about partying and girls. Now I'm totally focused on football and my schoolwork. I've demonstrated that I can get good grades when I apply myself, and like I said, Hoover is a tough school academically. I did real well early last year, but then I dropped off in the spring. There won't be any drop-off this year and I'm actually glad school has started. I know I'm going to do real well in the classroom this year. My coaches had me running on my own to prove my integrity and show them they can trust me. These next two years are going to be great. I'm sure of that."