Greene: Travis, what is the difference between being a first-year player and now, as you enter your second season at Ohio State?
Howard: "I feel more confident about being away from home and being in the Ohio State program. I remember last year's Media Day, when I was so excited to be wearing the uniform. I feel more calm this year about the season starting because I'm used to everything now. I have a better understanding of how things operate at the college level, so I'm not worried at all about being away from home."
Greene: You are now in the mix to start at cornerback. How are you playing and where do you see yourself on the depth chart?
Howard: "Right now, it's a battle. I know [Chimdi] Chekwa has a spot locked up, but I'm fighting some other guys to grab the spot opposite him. There's a lot of competition between all of us and we battle it out every day. I'm fighting with Devon Torrence, Andre Amos and Donnie Evege for the open spot. Everything is going good for me right now, so we'll see who wins the job at the end of camp."
[Travis Howard suffered an ankle injury shortly after this interview and has been hobbled through the last two weeks of practice.] Greene: How did playing on the scout team last year prepare you to play this year?
Howard: "I learned a lot covering guys like Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie, guys who had great skills. I'm better in man coverage because I went against those guys every day in practice. They taught me a lot of things about technique, and I'm a lot better football player because of those guys working against me."
Greene: Was it hard being at Ohio State and not playing in the games last year?
Howard: "Sitting out was really hard on me at first. Nobody comes to college to not be out on the field but this was the best thing for me. It was kind of depressing to be truthful, but I got through it and I'm better for it. It taught me a lot about myself, and I got bigger, faster and stronger during that year of sitting out. I learned the game and I became a smarter football player last year, and that's going to help me down the road."
Greene: Did you become friends with Ohrian Johnson, seeing as you were both from Florida, and both of you redshirted?
Howard: "I hang out with Ohrian all the time. We both went through the same experiences and we helped each other get through it. We leaned on each other if one of us was down or struggling a little bit. It made both of us better players and better people. He is a good friend to me."
Greene: You are a long way from home. Any second thoughts about coming to Ohio State?
Howard: "I made the right choice, no doubt about it. Ohio State will help me get to the NFL and that's my dream. They have great coaching, great tradition and this is a family-oriented program. I could have stayed home to be near my family, but there are a lot of things going on in Miami that aren't so good. Being away from home allows you to focus on academics and football without any bad influences getting to you, like maybe friends from high school who didn't go to college. Even my mom can see that Ohio State has done a lot for me and I'm growing up as a man."
Greene: When you back home to Florida do people kid with you about playing at Ohio State?
Howard: "There is a lot of that going on and some people tell me I should have stayed in-state, but I know I did the right thing. I left something old and came to something new. I wanted to meet new people and see a different part of the country and a lot of my friends really envy that. Everybody that knows me has said that they see me maturing as a person since I came to Ohio State."
Greene: Your mother has said that she can see you maturing as a person after one year at Ohio State. Is that a credit to you, or to Ohio State?
Howard: "I think it's a credit to me making the decision to get away from home [laughing]. My mom did everything for me when I was at home but now I've learned to do things for myself. I had to grow up and mature quickly because I was so far from home. I do credit Ohio State for being the type of place that I can succeed at, both on and off the field."
Greene: Can you tell me about the influence your mentor, Brett Goetz, has had in your life. He has helped so many players, at so many different programs across the country, and I know he helped you.
Howard: "Brett was like my second father as I was growing up. He was always there for me to speak to, and he always came to my games. He is a great man, a great family man, and I really respect him a lot for all he's done for so many young kids, not just me. He's done a lot for me in terms of showing me how to be a man and act like a responsible person. He's actually my father figure when my dad isn't around. Brett is always there to guide me, mentor me and lead me in the right direction. He helped teach me right from wrong, and I owe a lot to him for me being the person I am today. He has had such a great impact on my life, more as a person than as a football player. He never interferes with players selecting their colleges because he feels that's between us and our families. He always says he won't know who to root for when we play Michigan this year because he's so tight with Vlad Emilien. He goes through that every week during the season because he has so many players he's mentored playing all over the country, but we know he roots for all of us to do well individually."
Brett Goetz is a successful businessman that runs the Miami Beach Youth Football Program. Howard is one of several young men that Goetz has mentored over the years.
"Travis is a kid that a lot of football programs overlooked during the early recruiting process, especially the in-state schools," Goetz said. "He's going to be a great player for Ohio State. He has long arms and great recovery speed. He is nowhere near as good as he's going to be as he continues to get great coaching. Travis is very serious about his life and knows where he's headed. He's a great kid and he will be an NFL defensive back some day. He's one of my favorite kids of all the players I've been around. He will get his degree from Ohio State and be a success some day. I'm very proud of Travis Howard and the person he is."