MCHS' Howard signs with The Citadel Bulldogs
The Citadel Bulldogs signed a star in the making when Jay Howard inked his Letter of Intent Wednesday morning at Marshall County High School during national signing day.
Howard, who college coaches have been keeping an eye on since a standout sophomore campaign chose the Bulldogs over several other schools, including Air Force, Cornell, Valparaiso, Morehead State, Tusculum, Georgetown (KY), Lindenwood, Arkansas Tech and Cincinnati Christian.
"I know I had a decent amount of offers but, I think The Citadel was right for me because I'm not only going to play football, I'm also going for a great future for me and my family," Howard stated. "The Citadel gives you benefits like no other after you graduate and it felt like home because the coaching staff, players, and Charleston, South Carolina felt like home."
"People have been asking me why not this school, why not that school." Howard added. "And I've been telling them it was the best fit for me. FCS has a great variety of great football players and will still give me an opportunity to play a high level of college football and at military school you have to be a true dedicated human being and I think I am cut out for that because my parents have always told me ‘When going gets hard, pray about it and it will get better’ and that's what I'm going to do."
Despite having multiple college destinations to choose from the recruiting process wasn't easy sailing as most people imagine it was for Howard.
"My recruiting process was bumpy because I was getting lots of interests from big SEC schools and ACC schools," Howard explained. "So I picked a great school, great community, and it's definitely a brotherhood so I can't complain because it's definitely a blessing where God has put me."
In Citadel, Howard is walking into a program on the rise. Located in Charleston, South Carolina, Citadel has been playing in the Southern Conference since 1935 when 13 schools left the conference to form the Southeastern Conference.
Since then the Bulldogs have won the highly competitive Southern Conference just four times, but two of the four have been the past two years.
The Bulldogs have also made the FCS playoffs just five times including the 1992 season that saw Citadel finish with an 11-2 record and #1 final regular season ranking.
The Bulldogs made the playoffs two consecutive seasons for the first time ever in 2016 but lost in the first round 17-3 against Wofford, a team it had beat during the regular season 24-21.
The 2017 season will see the Bulldogs play another brutal southern conference schedule before closing the season at defending national champion Clemson on November 18.
Aside from the hoopla surrounding his freshman season, Howard is looking forward to what every college freshman looks forward to-- a taste of freedom.
“I’m looking forward to be able to get out and do things on my own," Howard stated. "Not going to lie, I'm spoiled. My parents do a lot of things for me but they aren't going to be there, so I will be making decisions on my own and giving my all on the field and off the field and definitely in the classroom."
Howard will be remembered as one of the most talented receivers to ever grace Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg, finishing his senior season with 949 receiving yards on 74 receptions for 11 touchdowns and a total of 1,389 all-purpose yards.
Howard, along with Tre Crutcher, jumped over to the defensive side midway through the season to claim 10 tackles and an interception and will be well-suited wherever he lines up in the college game.
"Jay Howard, he's really been the face of the team the past four years," MCHS coach Thomas Osteen said. "He is just a phenomenal player in what he's meant to this team, he holds every receiving record at Marshall County."
"He's a guy that going to the Citadel is number one going to be part of their first class educational program, he's getting a scholarship that's well over $200,000 over a four-year time period," Osteen continued. "Number two, he's playing high level football. Whether its receiver or defensive back for them he's adding a great athletic body to a really good football program."
And like the other Marshall County players taking their talent to the next level, Howard made lifetime memories and friends playing football for the Tigers.
"Making memories with my brothers," Howard said. "I know that's what a lot of people say but that's something you can't take away. That's a bond that nothing in this world could break and I'm definitely going to miss those times with those guys."