John Howell was born in Mullen, Neb., played eight-man football and was among a graduating class of 23. From those humble roots he went on to become a star defensive back at Colorado State and a 2003 Super Bowl champion with Tampa Bay.
Howell’s oldest son, Jack, is a true freshman safety at CSU who enrolled early last winter to get a jump on his collegiate career. Jack will likely make his NCAA debut in Friday’s opener against visiting South Dakota State.
Suffice to say he’s made a good first impression.
“The defensive coordinator (Chuck Heater) called me after the first couple weeks in the spring and said, ‘John, I got on Jack really hard today,’ ” John recalled. “And I said, ‘Well, that’s good, it’s the way it’s supposed to be,’ and he said, ‘No, I got on him hard. I went up to him later and asked him if he can handle that type of butt-chewing? And he’s like, Yeah, Coach, that’s nothing compared to my dad.’ ”
John Howell relayed the anecdote with a laugh.
Based on his background and experience, Howell knows how to push the right buttons to see his children succeed. His daughter, Jaelin, is a Florida State senior who won the 2021 MAC Hermann Trophy as the best women’s college soccer player in the country. Jack, who helped lead Valor Christian to the 2018 Colorado Class 5A state title as a sophomore, is following in his father’s footsteps after concluding his prep career in Chandler, Ariz. And his youngest sibling, Jake, is Cherry Creek High’s starting fullback and a backup linebacker as a sophomore.
John and Laura Howell are in Tallahassee, Fla., this week and will attend Jaelin’s big game against rival Florida on Thursday before returning to Colorado. John is scheduled to attend CSU’s opener Friday night while Laura will be at Jake’s game against Pomona.
“We’re extremely blessed and you got to enjoy these times while they last,” John Howell said. “It’s fun as parents — you get to reap the fun trips and rewards of your kids’ hard work.”
A 2000 All-Mountain West honoree, John Howell sounded particularly proud about Jack becoming a Ram. Jack was first offered a scholarship by former CSU head coach Mike Bobo, and was again offered by Bobo’s successor, Steve Addazio, who is beginning his first full season after the Rams played just four games in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re excited he’s a Ram,” John said. “We’re really excited about this coaching staff. Got to give them time but I hope they come out this year and win a bunch of football games and beat a bunch of rival teams and go to a bowl game and win that. But you got to give a new staff time.”
Addazio said that Howell, 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, has been among the most impressive freshmen along with fellow defensive backs Robert Floyd and Langston Williams (Eaglecrest grad), tight end Tanner Arkin (Fossil Ridge) and quarterback Evan Olaes. (Per CSU policy, freshmen aren’t allowed to talk to the media).
“He’s done a nice job,” Heater added. “Lots of different stuff thrown at you at one time and every week he’s gotten better. He’s really operating right now. He’s functioning really well enough to certainly be able to play and help us wins games.”
Heater likened the young player to a young coach.
“Obviously, you grow up in that culture, so that’s always a positive thing,” Heater said. “The reality of it is, you’re your own guy. Your dad isn’t making tackles for you. But obviously, it’s important for him. I like his mindset. I like his skill set. All positives from him in doing what we’re trying to ask him to do. We’re encouraged by it, for sure.”
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