Pope John OL Sam Howson Fulfills Dream with Big Ten Commitment

Sparta (N.J.) Pope John XXIII ended a whirlwind week Sunday morning with a verbal commitment to in-state Rutgers University and new head coach Chris Ash.

Sparta (N.J.) Pope John XXIII offensive lineman Sam Howson knew the final destination before he embarked Friday on an official visit to Rutgers.

A projected center or guard that transformed his body as a senior with Pope John, Howson officially made himself Rutgers-bound with a verbal commitment Sunday to coach Chris Ash.

Ash and line coaches AJ Blazek (offense) and Shane Burnham (defense) uncovered Howson during January visits to Pope John and add a commitment from the motivated 6-foot-4, 280-pounder.

“It’s awesome to know I have a chance to represent New Jersey where I grew up,” said Howson, who chose Rutgers over Maine, Monmouth and Wagner. “Seeing all of the talent leave the state, it’s hard to see. Getting a chance to represent it, I’m excited. It’s a great opportunity.”

Howson and Blazek hit it off on both the official visit and an in-home Wednesday before the formal scholarship offer came. Howson also built a relationship with sophomore Zack Heeman – his weekend host.

“Talking with [Blazek], he said he sees a little bit of himself in me with the way I love to finish things,” Howson said. “I don’t quit until the job gets done. I work hard, and I’m a tough guy. I look up to him that way and I see some of myself in him as well, so I figure it’s a good relationship.”

Rutgers fans can expect 100 percent effort and focus from Howson when he arrives.

“I’m a guy that’s going to come in no matter what the circumstances and always work hard,” he said. “I’m going to work harder than anyone else. I have toughness. I’m a blue-collar guy that shows up to work every day. That’s what you can expect. … I’m [a lineman that is] just about driving people to the ground. Nothing beats that feeling.”

Pope John, where Rutgers will be active next year with talented lineman Dalyn Wade-Perry, is also the former home of Ohio State’s Noah Brown, who chose the Buckeyes over the Scarlet Knights in 2013.

“It’s awesome to have a chance to play against him,” Howson said. “Noah Brown left a legacy at Pope John that everyone knows about. To have a chance to play against him is awesome but just to play for Rutgers in general is awesome. Add that factor and it’s unbelievable.”

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