Howard on his way to success at the Citadel

Friday, October 20, 2017
Jay Howard (15) is in a redshirt season this year at the Citadel, but could find some action if injuries mount for the Bulldogs.
Photo submitted

One of the most difficult things for any high school graduate entering college is learning how to manage time.

For most of those students learning how to manage time efficiently for classes alone is a monumental task, but add attending one of the most prestigious military colleges in the world on top of playing football for one of the most successful teams in Division I (FCS level) over the past few years and you have the recipe for the kind of freshman year that would make most students buckle under pressure.

But for former Marshall County Tiger all-time leading receiver and current Citadel Bulldog Jay Howard, the transition has been a tough one, but ultimately a rewarding experience just the same.

Former Tiger great Jay Howard, who finished his high school football career with over 200 receptions and over 3,000 receiving yards still follows his alma mater closely and misses playing at Preston Hopkins Field in Lewisburg.
Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

"The first semester is very challenging for me because it's not a regular college," Howard explained. "It's a military college so I have to stay ahead in the books, football, and also learn to be a trained leader in everyday life."

"The biggest challenge for me on and off the field has been patience," Howard continued. "Coming from high school to college is a big jump because I didn't miss a rep in high school, but now having to understand the game all the way over again is quite challenging"

"So I watch film non-stop so when my time is called I'll be ready to get out there and prove to the coaches that I'm ready!"

Howard, who finished his high school football career with over 200 receptions and well over 3,000 receiving yards chose The Citadel over offers from Air Force, Cornell, Valparaiso, and Morehead State among others

Planning on jumping right into the Bulldog mix, Howard ultimately decided after Fall practice to take a red-shirt year as a freshman to gain knowledge of The Citadel system, both on and off the field.

"Redshirting has been difficult," Howard offered. "Just not being able to compete like I want to is hard to grasp but it also helps me a lot. I watch film non-stop, work out nonstop and get ahead of my academics and I'll have lots experience going into next year."

On the academic side of things, Howard, who has chosen to major in Sports Management with a minor in Business, is in good hands at The Citadel.

One of the top academic colleges in the south, The Citadel has produced six governors, three U.S. senators, 12 congressman, and 47 presidents of colleges and universities.

But adjusting to the difference between high school studies to the academic rigors of a highly competitive higher education institution takes time for all college students.

"The academics are tough," Howard said. "Coming from high school my teachers helped me a lot, but now you're by yourself so you have to be smart about how you use your time."

"Managing time is the biggest thing because you have practice and military in there as well," Howard added. "The Citadel has a lot to give but it's up to me to go get it!"

Despite using his freshman year to red-shirt, Howard is still part of everyday football practices and dresses out for every home game in case the need arises for the red-shirt label to be lifted in an emergency.

So although Howard is not getting any game time experience in 2017, practice is an essential tool to show coaches that progression is happening and that future plans will include the former Tiger.

"Every day is like an interview," Howard pointed out. "You have to go out there and prove to the coaches why they gave you that scholarship and I'm definitely blessed to have that opportunity every day to compete and play the game that I love."

"College football is no joke," Howard added. "Every day is a grind and the days are long. You'll call your momma and daddy everyday saying 'momma I don't know if this is for me' but you just have to find something good about that day and build on it day by day."

On the football field the season started out great for the defending Southern Conference champions, posting a 3-0 record before hitting a rough patch.

The Bulldogs then lost a 35-14 contest against #23 ranked Samford before dropping two more conference matches against Mercer and Wofford by a combined 14 points.

The Bulldogs' next game finds the Charleston based squad in Howard's home state with a matchup against the Chattanooga Mocs.

The Citadel finishes the conference schedule with matchups against Virginia Military Institute, Western Carolina, and Furman before ending the regular season against defending national champion Clemson, a once in a lifetime football experience.

And while Howard has found a new home in Charleston, South Carolina, the Marshall County native will always hold a special place in his heart for Lewisburg.

"I miss Lewisburg every day, especially the people that live in it," Howard emphasized. "My parents have always taught me never forget where you come from and just that alone says a lot about where I come from!"

"Charleston is absolutely great," Howard continued. "Lots of things to do, beautiful weather, beach 20 minutes away from me on the weekends. It's absolutely great!"

"I'm actually working on job shadowing and things of that sort. Thanks to David Delk for all the connections and being a huge contribution in this process and checking in on me all the time."

"But at the end of the day, I bleed blue and white! There is no place else I'd rather be from!"

And coming from Lewisburg, one thing that Howard will always keep up with is Tiger football and all the teammates that became close as family over the years.

"I have been following the Tigers, but not as much as I want to," Howard said. "But I heard my boys Kamron Liggett and Tavi McLean have been eating but that's no surprise."

"And I think they'll go all the way and if they get a ring I might have to ask Coach ‘O’ (Osteen) to special order me one," Howard laughed. "But once a Tiger always a Tiger and I wish the best for them boys in blue, especially the one rocking the #4 this year, A'ky Howard!"

With at least four current Tigers already holding offers to continue playing in college next season, one thing Howard can offer sound advice about the recruiting process.

"Be thankful for every offer you get," Howard advised. "Don't pick a school for what the name is. Get to know the school and create a relationship with the coaches. You don't want to go to the school because it's ‘That school that everyone talks about’."

"Go to that school because you know you can make a difference there and that school fits you well," Howard continued. "You're going to have people to tell you to go to this school and go to this school. Just smile and take it all in but at the end of the day go to a school that makes you happy."

Sound advice coming a native son that continues to make Marshall County proud whether in Charleston, South Carolina or back home in Lewisburg.