Howard is not alone at The Citadel

Friday, April 14, 2017
Citadel signee Jay Howard is flanked by David and Dean Delk after their visit to Marshall County High School Wednesday afternoon.
Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina is located in Charleston, far away from Lewisburg where Jay Howard grew up playing and excelling in the three major sports of football, baseball and basketball.

Howard decided that football was his best sport and became Marshall County’s High School’s all-time leading receiver, catching 211 passes for 28 career receiving touchdowns. Howard averaged 75.4 yards per game and 13.9 yards per grab and also had five rushing touchdown and two kickoff returns for scores.

“I’ve been playing all the sports all my life and when I got to high school I started to get some recognition and getting the eye of the scouts that started to boost my ego and people started pushing me more and I just fell in love with the game of football,” Howard said. “Coach (MCHS Thomas) Osteen and my team are just like family to me and we are a brotherhood, you can’t ever forget something like that.”

Howard’s prowess on the gridiron earned him a football scholarship to the Citadel, one of the six major military colleges in the country where football has been played since 1905 and the Bulldogs are coming off back-to-back Southern Conference titles.

“Of all my offers, the Citadel was the top one,” Howard said. “On my official trip to Charleston, I loved it, they treated me just like family and I loved the bond that all the players and everybody had there.”

“It’s just a blessing to have all of that at this point in my life right now.”

Citadel students operate under three core values: honor, duty and respect and that was evident on Wednesday as two Citadel graduates went to Marshall County High School to welcome Howard and let him know they are there to help and encourage him as he takes on all the challenges of attending the prestigious institution of higher learning.

Marshall County Commissioner Dean Delk, a 1983 Citadel graduate and his son, Chapel Hill First Commerce Bank Vice-President David Delk (1998) extended the hand of camaraderie to Howard and gave him some advice and a historical perspective of the college that has been in operation since 1842.

“I think he (Howard) will get a quality education and earn that education and with what he will be exposed to and with his abilities, it will make him a better man,” Dean Delk said. “I’m just tickled to pieces about it because I go way back with the Citadel.”

Dean Delk talked about his early experiences in Charleston when he played at the current home of the Bulldogs’, Johnson Hagood Stadium (67 years old) in a City football championship game in 1953 where his squad chased a barefoot rascal they never caught.

“I remember our coach was the son of the police chief of Charleston and they escorted us over across the bridge, red lights and everything, we were something,” Dean Delk said. “But we never caught that rascal, he ran all around us.”

David Delk, the current president of the Middle-Tennessee Citadel Alumni Association also gave Howard some advice about student life at the school.

“It’s a challenge, everything is a challenge there and there is a reason for that,” David Delk said. “There is a right way to tie your shoes, there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything and they are going to teach you to do it their way.”

“Don’t spend time asking why, just do it and go in with an open mind, you’re a student athlete leader now and you have set yourself apart, so just carry that same attitude in and you will be fine,” added David Delk, who played rugby for four years at the Citadel.

Jay Howard is the all-time leading receiver in Marshall County High School football history and the Citadel signee played three sports for the Tigers.

Howard is talented enough to step in and play a role right away for the Bulldogs, who graduated both of their top receivers.

“I think Jay could be a heck of return guy immediately and I’ve seen him play defensive back and he could do that too,” David Delk said. “The opportunities are endless and the door is wide open, Jay can play, I’ve seen him play. I want to see him do great things, not just on the football field.”

Howard was very humbled and appreciative of the Delks’ visit, saying, “This makes me feel great, David Delk and I have been in contact a lot and he is filling me in on stuff, so I think I got most of it.”

Howard reports to the Citadel in mid-June and said about leaving his family to go off to college, “This will definitely be a challenge, I’m a momma’s boy, so it is definitely a big step, but they said I would see their faces more than I can imagine, so it will be just like home.”

This may not be the last long trip for Howard, who has aspirations to play in the NFL like one his heroes, New England Patriots All-Pro linebacker Dont’a Hightower. “He is definitely an inspiration, the NFL has never left my mind.”