Hayward Howard

New Orleans native Hayward Howard transferred to Ole Miss from an Arizona junior college after attending there one semester due to getting lost in the college football shuffle in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Everything has settled in for the 6-4, 300-pounder now and, after a semi-successful spring training, he's ready to take his game to the next level. Read about it inside.

Hayward Howard, a sophomore defensive tackle for the Ole Miss football team, says he didn't start his Rebel career off with a bang, but he intends to end with one.

"Due to a lot of circumstances, like being displaced from home after Katrina, I wasn't in very good shape when I reported here," said Howard, who, at 6-4 300 pounds, certainly looks the part of an SEC DL. "I didn't know the drills we use in the offseason. The whole transition here was like a blur. It took me some time to catch on."

When spring training rolled around, Howard was in "better" condition, but not where he needs to be or will get to.

"I was in good enough shape to get through the first couple of weeks and adjust to carrying the extra weight of pads, but I still wasn't in top condition," he explained.

Consequently, Howard's play was sporadic the first couple of weeks of spring training.

"I'd make a play or two and then run out of gas. It took some time to understand the intensity required on this level and it took some time for me to get in better shape," Hayward said.

But in those moments when his true ability would surface, the coaches noticed.

"It is apparent he has ability," said DL Coach Ryan Nielsen recently. "He's big, quick, strong - everything you look for in a DT. He just has to get in better shape and keep learning."

It didn't take long for the coaches to elevate him to the first defensive unit. As Nielsen said, Howard just kept getting better and better.

"Day by day, I could feel myself getting in better shape, getting stronger, being more physical and learning my plays," he continued. "I understand I still have a lot of things to do to reach all my potential, but I gained some confidence in spring."

He said he had some epic battles during one-on-one drills with the offensive linemen that taught him a lot.

"On this level, one-on-one drills are tough. Everyone on our offensive line I faced had been through it before and had their techniques down. (OG) Andrew Wicker and I had some real battles. He's a tough guy - he's not going to give you an inch, you have to take it," he explained. "I knew when I lined up against him I had a challenge on my hands. It didn't take me long to figure that out."

Hayward is quick to say he isn't satisfied with the final results of spring drills, but he's proud of what he got accomplished.

"I came a long way, but I've got a long way to go," Howard said. "For my first time in this system, I did OK, but my techniques need a lot of work, I have to get in better shape and I have to keep competing in the weight room and in the drills.

"I have a good feeling about what's happening on our defensive front. We don't have a lot of experience, but we have some hard-nosed players who want to get the job done. I think once we get some experience under our belts, with the attitude we have of wanting to get better, we will be fine," he noted. "We are pretty close as a group and we all have made a goal of being at our best when August rolls around.

"We're working hard in the weight room and we will work hard on our own working on our techniques and assignments in the summer."

Hayward's adjustment to Division I football is coming along at a good pace. His adjustment to Ole Miss is already complete.

"I love it here. I'm doing well in the class room and I'm making a lot of friends. Ole Miss is a good fit for me," he closed.

Howard's Ole Miss career is less than four months "old," but already he's making an impact.

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