As a 220-pound rising senior, Sparta (N.J.) Pope John XXIII offensive lineman Sam Howson put himself to work.
A hunger for next-level competition fueled Howson to an impressive offseason of weight-room gains and body development. Howson built himself to 6-foot-5, 280 pounds in less than a year and the reward came one week before National Signing Day.
Howson picked up a Big Ten scholarship offer from Rutgers Wednesday night, and a weekend official visit could lead to a commitment.
“Meeting the rest of the coaches and players [is important],” Howson said. “I’ve heard great things about where the program is going with the new staff. I have all of the faith in the world that it will be exactly what I’m looking for.”
Howson picked up offers from Maine, Wagner and Monmouth before one came from Rutgers.
“Going into the offseason, all of my coaches said, ‘the biggest thing for you is you’ve got to put on weight,’” Howson said. “I have the frame for it. I added 60-65 pounds in the offseason which is kind of crazy. I hit a couple of camps and made a name for myself but I had to go out and have a good senior season to prove myself. All of the hard work in the weight room, running in the offseason, I came out and performed and here I am.”
Rutgers offensive line coach AJ Blazek made an in-person connection with Howson Wednesday. Head coach Chris Ash also spoke with the North Jersey lineman.
“Coach Blaz came over for an in-home last night and it went well then I got the news about two hours later,” he said. “I would say it’s been an awesome last 24 hours for me.”
Howson has past experience with Rutgers as both a big-man camper and unofficial visitor. He joined underclassman Dalyn Wade-Perry in the Rutgers stands for a near upset over Michigan State under interim coach Norries Wilson.
“That was a tough loss but it was great to see all of the fans that came out,” he said. “I camped there and got to see an awesome weight room. The camp was great with competition and playing on that field was awesome. It’s good experience so far.”
Rutgers projected Howson as an interior lineman, he said, and academics are an important part of his upcoming visit.
“The first thing I’d like to see is the academic support available to me,” he said. “Rutgers is a great school and it’s hard to balance big-time Division I football when you add in academics to that. Seeing the support they get will be big.”