Cardinal Catch One on the Rise

Recruiting is more than just a match between a school and a student-athlete. Different circumstances and timing can send a recruit to any number of college destinations. Stanford was fortunate to land today a big verbal commitment from one of their earliest offers this year. Delano Howell was starting to see his stock blow up this summer, but the versatile athlete recruit is now off the market.

The role of a Stanford Football assistant coach too often means being the bearer of bad news.  Of the numerous prospective student-athletes who have been offered a scholarship by the Cardinal, many will be ultimately told that their academic profile - classes, grades or test scores - does not allow them to gain admission to the University.  Cardinal linebackers coach Andy Buh today had the good pleasure of communicating a very different message.  It came through a simple text message to Delano Howell, ending a long wait for the Newhall (Calif.) Hart High School senior.

"I worked on my application really hard and turned it in.  I've just been waiting this summer, hoping I'll get admitted," Howell explains.  "Coach texted me - told me I was admitted and to call him.  I called him and just committed on the spot."

"I was relieved," the recruit relates.  "I said, 'Yes!  Finally this is over.'  I was ready to be committed in about two seconds."

"He was very excited," Howell shares of Buh's reaction.  "He's been trying to get me on the phone for a long time, but I wasn't going to commit until I knew I was admitted.  That's why it took so long."

"We just talked about how excited I am now that I'm on the boat," he adds.  "I've been working hard so far, and now that I'm on the boat to Stanford, I have to work even harder."

Howell admits that he has been anxious while waiting for the verdict on his Stanford admissions application.  His mother has also eagerly anticipated the news, holding the Cardinal as her favorite choice and the highest hope in her heart.

"She was very excited.  She's been looking for that from the very beginning," says the son.  "She's been trusting in God.  Whatever is supposed to happen will happen." 

The 5'11" 188-pound running back/cornerback is currently ranked by Scout.com as the #30 cornerback in the nation and the #80 overall prospect in the West region.  But Howell's stock this summer has been on the rise, as he has shown tremendous playmaking ability and athleticism in Southern California passing tournaments.

"Howell is a gifted athlete, and he could be a track guy for Stanford as well," says Scout.com West recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman.   "He's a gamebreaker on offense, whether carrying the ball or catching it out of the backfield, and is one of the better running backs the passing-friendly Indians have had.  His ability to play a bunch of positions coupled with his athleticism will bode well for him in college."

"He was having as good a summer as anyone before he suffered a freak injury at the Bonita Passing Tournament," Huffman adds.  "But he should be ready to go by fall, where the Indians are thrilled to have him back for his senior year."

Howell saw his 7-on-7 "season" end on June 30 at the Air Assault Passing Tournament at Bonita High School.  The injury came when his teeth collided with a teammate's forehead.  Howell lost consciousness and suffered a concussion.  The wounded Indian was airlifted to a nearby hospital after regaining consciousness, spitting blood and with a couple teeth knocked loose.

"It was nothing big.  I just have this brace in my mouth right now," downplays Howell.  "I'll be definitely back when we get in pads [August 11].  That's for sure...  I'm still running and lifting.  I'm not set back too much."

Unable to continue competing with his teammates in passing tournaments or contact practices following his injury, Howell finds today's news of his Stanford admissions acceptance at just the right time.

"This is a great lift," he says.  "But at the same time, 7-on-7 tournaments are just preparation for the season.  As long as you're good in the season, that's all that really matters."

Howell and the Indians open their 2007 season on September 7 versus Moorpark.

The timing for Stanford in landing Howell's commitment is also a source of celebration.  His stock was rapidly on the rise this summer, and it would have only helped other college coaches for him to start playing his senior season while still undecided on his college commitment.  Howell's offer sheet numbered just Stanford and Washington, but that was soon to grow.  The Cardinal instead have collected a verbal commitment before Howell's breakout took the public stage in September.

"I think I'm just focused on lifting more and becoming the strongest that I can," says the athlete of his recent improvements.  "Also just working on the fundamentals more, listening to what the coaches told me and trying to have a little leadership role.  Hopefully this will lead up into the season, and then it will create some big things."

Amidst the celebration of Howell's commitment, there arises a question for the 5'11" athlete:  Where does he play on the field for Stanford?

Howell starts for Hart at running back and cornerback, and those are two possible positions.  The need for him in Stanford's offensive backfield may be better understood closer to Signing Day, depending on other commitments the Cardinal can corral at running back.

Where Howell might play on defense is a more complex question.  He has the athleticism, ball skills and speed today to play at cornerback, which is his high school position.  But Howell has a frame that might see him comfortably carry over 200 pounds in college, and he plays with tremendous physical toughness.  That argues for him as a strong safety and is probably his best projection.

Looking deeper into his college career, Howell could conceivably grow into a weakside "Will" linebacker before it's all said and done.

"Whatever position will help the team the most, that's where I will play," he opines.  "In high school, I play running back.  If I try that but I'm not the best at it, then I'll just move to where I can help the most.  It doesn't really matter to me.  I just want to play as early as possible and do the best that I can."

Howell's attitude is refreshing in today's recruiting realm, where 17-year-olds can and often do hold college head coaches hostage with their demands.  This student-athlete, however, harbors a great deal of respect for his future coaches.  Those relationships began when he attended Stanford's Junior Day back on March 30, building to today's recruiting crescendo.

"I have a lot of respect for the coaches.  I would love to play for them," Howell explains of his Cardinal commitment.  "On the academic side, I think that if I do my best, I can make some of my dreams come true there.  It's also a chance to play with a great football team."

Howell continues the Cardinal's surge recruiting in the West this year, particularly in Southern California where Stanford already has four verbal commitments.  One of those who jumped on board prior to Howell was Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian School wide receiver Chris Owusu.  The two played against each other last month in a 7-on-7 passing tournament and have been hoping to become college teammates.

"We've been communicating a lot, and then I saw him at the tournament," says Howell of Owusu.  "He's a really strong receiver, so I would have no problem playing by his side at all.  I've been talking to him.  We've been keeping in contact and building a relationship, so I'm really excited about that."

Delano Howell last season as a junior at Hart rushed for 1,491 yards and 29 touchdowns on 235 carries.  He also caught 41 passes for 625 yards and six more scores.  On defense he added 30 tackles and two interceptions.  He even punted for the Indians.  Howell earned First Team All-CIF Northern Division honors and was a First-Team All-State Underclass selection.


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