Howard in Austin, Texas in 2008
|No. 21, 80, 81, 82, 18|
|Date of birth:May 15, 1970|
|Place of birth: Cleveland, Ohio|
|NFL Draft: 1992 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4|
|No regular season or postseason appearances|
|* Washington Redskins ( 1992– 1994)|
|Career highlights and awards|
|* Super Bowl champion (XXXI)
|Total return yards||10,855|
|Stats at NFL.com|
|College Football Hall of Fame|
Desmond Kevin Howard (born May 15, 1970) is an American former professional football player in the National Football League (NFL) . Howard was known mostly as a return specialist but also played wide receiver. He is currently a college football analyst for ESPN.
He played in college for the Michigan Wolverines from 1989 to 1991 and won the Heisman Trophy in 1991. He played professionally in the NFL for the Washington Redskins (1992–1994), Jacksonville Jaguars (1995), Green Bay Packers (1996, 1999), Oakland Raiders (1997–1998) and Detroit Lions (1999–2002). Howard was voted the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXXI and is the first and currently the only special teams player to win the award. His team beat the New England Patriots in that game. Howard was ranked the ninth greatest return specialist in NFL history by NFL Network's NFL Top 10 return aces. On July 16, 2011, Howard was inducted into the 2011 class of the College Football Hall of Fame.
High school career[edit | edit source]
Howard was born in Cleveland, Ohio and earned All-American and All-Ohio honors as a tailback during his senior season at St. Joseph High School in Cleveland, Ohio, scoring 18 touchdowns with a record-breaking 5,392 rushing yards, as well as 10 interceptions on defense. He earned three varsity letters each in track and football, as well as one in basketball.
College career[edit | edit source]
During his college career at the University of Michigan, Howard set or tied five NCAA and 12 Wolverines records. He also led the Big Ten Conference in scoring with 138 points during the 1991 season on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award, earning first-team All-American honors. Howard captured 85 percent of the first-place votes in balloting for the Heisman, the largest margin in history at that time. Howard also earned a bachelor's degree in communications in 1992. In 2011, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and he was honored as the inaugural Michigan Football Legend, a program honoring former players equivalent to a retired jersey number. Each Michigan player to wear Howard's No. 21 jersey was to wear a patch recognizing Howard, and dress at a locker bearing a plaque with his name and time of tenure at Michigan.
Howard had come to Michigan as a tailback and initially struggled for playing time. He met with Michigan counselor Greg Harden, who helped him to build his confidence and achieve success on and off the field. Howard told 60 Minutes in 2014: "If Greg Harden wasn’t at the University of Michigan…I don’t win the Heisman." 
On December 12, 2014, the Big Ten Network included Howard on "The Mount Rushmore of Michigan Football", as chosen by online fan voting. Howard was joined in the honor by Charles Woodson, Tom Harmon, and Anthony Carter.
On November 28, 2015, Howard had his #21 officially retired along with Gerald Ford (48), Tom Harmon (98), Ron Kramer (87), Bennie Osterbaan (47) and Albert, Alvin and Whitey Wistert (11) at a ceremony before the Michigan game against Ohio State. Howard commented afterward, "Any time you have your name mentioned along with Gerald Ford, you've done something right."
The Heisman pose[edit | edit source]
During the 1991 season, after he became a Heisman contender, Howard decided that he would do "something special" during the Michigan-Ohio State game "as a little shout-out to the people back in Ohio". After scoring in the game, in the end zone he wanted to do a backflip but, Howard later said, "chickened out"; instead he imitated the pose of the football player on the Heisman trophy, immediately receiving much media attention. Comparing his act to Muhammad Ali's taunting of opponents, Steve Rushin observed that although Howard's pose did not closely resemble that of the statue, "that looks more like the Heisman Trophy of our imagination than the Heisman trophy itself ... thousands of people must have instantly picked up some object and tried to do the same thing". Howard later said that "all of a sudden, everyone was doing it"; many have imitated the act, including fellow athletes, celebrities, and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Professional career[edit | edit source]
After college, Howard was selected by the Washington Redskins in the first round, fourth overall in the 1992 NFL Draft. The pick was considered a luxury for the Redskins, who had just won Super Bowl XXVI and had receivers Art Monk, Gary Clark, and Ricky Sanders on the roster. The Redskins, worried that the Green Bay Packers were going to draft Howard in the fifth spot, leapfrogged above them by dealing their two first-round picks - 6th and 28th - and their third-round choice (84th) to the Cincinnati Bengals for their first-round pick (4th) and their third-round pick (58th). Howard was the highest Redskins draft pick since they took Hall of Fame receiver Charley Taylor with the third pick in 1964. Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs remarked of Howard "This guy doesn't have any flaws. We're excited."
Howard's performance as a receiver was secondary to his skills as a punt and kick off returner throughout his 11-year career. Though he recorded 92 receptions in his first four seasons, he excelled as a punt and kickoff returner throughout his career. Thus is known as a specialist.
His most notable professional season was in 1996 for the Green Bay Packers. He led the NFL in punt returns (58), punt return yards (875), punt return average (15.1), and punt return touchdowns (3), while gaining 460 kickoff return yards and catching 13 passes for 95 yards. His 875 punt return yards were an NFL record, easily surpassing the old record of 692 yards set by Fulton Walker in 1985. During the 1996 NFL postseason, Howard had a punt return for a touchdown in a game between the Packers and the San Francisco 49ers. The Packers reached Super Bowl XXXI against the New England Patriots.
The Packers led 27–14 at halftime, but Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe led his team on a short drive that ended with Curtis Martin's 18-yard touchdown run to pull the Patriots within six late in the third quarter. With new life, the Patriots boomed the ensuing kickoff to the one-yard line, but Howard effectively shattered the Patriots' hopes for a comeback with a 99-yard kickoff return for a Packers touchdown. His return and the Packers' subsequent two-point conversion closed out the scoring of the game, and the Packers eventually won 35-21. Bill Parcells, the Patriots' head coach, commented after the game: "We had a lot of momentum, and our defense was playing better. But [Howard] made the big play. That return was the game right there. He's been great all year, and he was great again today." Howard totaled a Super Bowl record 90 punt return yards and 154 kickoff return yards with one touchdown; his 244 all-purpose yards also tied a Super Bowl record. His performance won him the Super Bowl MVP award, making Howard the only player to ever win the award based solely on a special teams performance.
Howard became a free agent after the season and signed with the Oakland Raiders. He led the NFL in kickoff returns (61) and kickoff return yards (1,381). Howard spent the 1998 football season with the Raiders before re-joining the Packers in 1999.
In the middle of the 1999 season, Howard was cut by the Packers after subpar performance and multiple injuries. He was signed by the Detroit Lions four days later, where he spent the rest of his career until his retirement after the 2002 season. In a special homecoming, he scored a special teams touchdown in his Lions debut. In February 2001, he made his first and only Pro Bowl appearance as the NFC's kick returner.
In his 11 NFL seasons, Howard caught 123 passes for 1,597 yards, rushed for 68 yards, returned 244 punts for 2,895 yards, and gained 7,595 yards returning 359 kickoffs. He also scored 16 touchdowns (7 receiving, 8 punt returns, 1 kickoff return). Overall, Howard gained 12,155 all-purpose yards in his professional career.
NFL statistics[edit | edit source]
|Year||Team||G||PR||PR yds||PR TD||FC||Long PR||KR||KR yds||KR TD||Long KR|
Broadcasting career[edit | edit source]
Howard currently works for ESPN as a college football analyst. He appears as an in-studio personality and, in 2005, began traveling with Rece Davis, Lee Corso, and Kirk Herbstreit to marquee matchup sites during the season for the pre-game show ESPN College Gameday.
He is also currently the color commentator for Detroit Lions pre-season games on the Detroit Lions Television Network. He called games for the NFL on Fox for one season with ESPN colleague Carter Blackburn.
NCAA Football 06[edit | edit source]
On May 6, 2005, EA Sports announced that Howard would be the cover athlete for its latest installment in the NCAA Football video game series, NCAA Football 06. The announcement was a departure for the series, which has traditionally featured college athletes who went to the NFL the previous year on its covers. He was chosen to highlight the new feature "Race for the Heisman," and his cover picture showed him striking his famous Heisman pose while at the University of Michigan.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Lists of Michigan Wolverines football receiving leaders
- List of NCAA major college football yearly receiving leaders
References[edit | edit source]
- Detroit Free Press, "Howard savors big moment", Page 3C, July 17, 2011
- "Tom Brady's Guru", by Eric Adelson, January 11, 2011.
- 60 Minutes Sports. (Interview). YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfz4skkFWk4.
- 2016 Heisman Trophy Presentation (Television). ESPN. December 10, 2016.
- "Desmond Howard Stats". ESPN Internet Ventures. http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/stats/_/id/285/desmond-howard. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
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