The night before Jack Howell’s first college start against Toledo last season, he was so nervous he had trouble sleeping.
After enrolling early at Colorado State in the spring of 2021, Howell did not expect to play much as a true freshman, let alone start at safety. But when injuries chipped away at the depth chart, he was thrown into the deep end.
“I had to do my part and be confident,” Howell said.
The former Valor Christian standout did more than that. Appearing in 10 games, and starting six, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound safety had 64 tackles, one interception and four pass breakups. He was named a FWAA Freshman All-American, as well as CSU’s Rookie of the Year.
Now, a year later, he’s stepping up to take a leadership role in the secondary under a new coaching staff.
“This team is a brotherhood, we check in with each other and push each other,” Howell said. “… It is going to be hard to separate us.”
Howell said the Rams have connected well with new head coach Jay Norvell’s staff, including a group of younger coaches who he said are easy to relate to. Among them is new defensive coordinator Freddie Banks, who also doubles as the Rams’ defensive backs coach. Banks held the same two titles in his lone year at Montana State — one that ended with the Bobcats in the FCS championship game.
Now he’s in Howell’s ear at practices trying to elevate a defense that finished tied for 82nd in scoring defense (28.25 points/game) last fall.
“It’s super fun, we can joke around and there’s a good connection because we have a lot more in common,” Howell said. “(Banks) will get after you but will also hype you up. We like being coached hard and love his criticism.”
Norvell is excited for Howell, saying that after an outstanding summer of training, he has noticed him taking on a more vocal role.
“Jack’s great,” Norvell said. “He’s conscientious, really focused and dialed in… I’m anxious to see how that plays out on the field this fall.”
As more gets heaped on Howell’s shoulders, he said he’s ready to keep learning. Anything it takes to turn around a team that went 3-9 a year ago.
“You have to hold people accountable but you also have to hold yourself accountable and set yourself at a high standard,” Howell said. “That’s how we are going to win.”
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