Howard turns into Towson's biggest catch

THE GOOD-HANDS GUYS

November 13, 1992|By Dave Glassman | Dave Glassman,Contributing Writer

He may be small, but he's slow. He caught only four passes as a redshirt-freshman reserve and saw his team switch to a ground-oriented attack for the first five games of his junior year.

So how did Kevin Howard, who arrived as a 152-pound freshman, reach the point that he's just nine receptions away from becoming Towson State's all-time leading receiver? He's already passed Mike Smith (1986-89, 142 catches) and is climbing toward Sean Murphy (1982-85, 154) and Dale Chipps (1984-87, 157). All were bigger, faster receivers than Howard.

"Chipps and Smith had the long ball," Howard said. "I'm just the guy you can go to on third down."

"He's a student of the game," said Gordy Combs, the Tigers' coach. "He watches a lot of videotape and he's a quick learner. He has great hands."

Saturday, against Northeastern (5-3-1) at Minnegan Stadium (1:30 p.m.), the Tigers (4-4) will go after their first three-game winning streak since 1987. That was also the year Dale Chipps set the school career reception record of 157. Howard's 47 catches this year have given him a total of 149 going into the final home game of his career. He'd love to break the record in front of the home fans and his family, who come down from Philadelphia for every game.

"Ever since it was mentioned at the beginning of the season, it's been in the back of my mind," Howard said. "It's something I can carry with me the rest of my life. It's a big thing for me and my family . . . Just to be considered one of the best is an : accomplishment for me."

And rest assured, the record will come, if not this week, then next week at Delaware. "No doubt, we're going to make sure he gets those nine catches over the next two weeks," said Combs. Howard arrived at Towson on a partial scholarship after being recruited by Bucknell and Columbia. "I never even took my other visits," he said. "I fell in love with this place. The atmosphere brought me here. It's a nice, quiet campus. Not too big or too small. I was treated like a regular person, not just a football recruit."

Now he's bulked up to a not-so-bruising 171 pounds on a 5-foot-11 frame, has earned a full scholarship and, though he's not the fastest guy on the team, he said he's run 40 yards in 4.6 seconds. He's fast enough to already hold one school record for the longest touchdown catch, an 83-yarder last year from quarterback Dan Crowley against Hofstra. Also the Tigers' punt returner for three years, Howard returned 23 and called for 17 fair catches during the 1990 and '91 seasons. "They used to call me 'Fair catch Freddy,' " he said. "My girlfriend asked me why I always called for a fair catch. They say my girlfriend is the reason I return more punts this year." Well, something has to account for his 25 returns this year (8.4 yard avg.), including a 45-yard touchdown against Hofstra, with just two fair catches.

It certainly isn't new-found toughness because he's always had that. "He's so courageous," said Combs of his inside receiver who frequently goes over the middle. "He took some unbelievable hits at IUP [Indiana University, Pa.]. He catches anything near him."

And, though he's missed just one game with an injury, a sprained shoulder in 1990, that's how he practices. "I try to simulate games in practice," Howard said. "I go after the ball just as hard as during a game. Once I see the ball in the air it's my duty to catch it, so I go for it. Sometimes the coaches have to tell me to stop diving for the ball."

Howard's stats

Year.. .. ..Rec... .. ..Yards.. .. ..Avg... .. ..TD

1989.. .. ...4.. .. .. ..59.. .. .. 14.7.. .. .. .0

1990.. .. ..50 .. .. .. .721.. .. ..14.4.. .. .. .3

1991.. .. ..48.. .. .. ..613.. .. ..12.8.. .. .. .9

1992.. .. ..47.. .. .. ..565.. .. ..12.0.. .. .. .2

Tot... .. .149.. .. .. .1958.. .. ..13.1.. .. .. 14

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