He arrived in the fall of 2013, all arms, legs, and a 90+ mph fastball. 6’9” and hailing from St. Louis, Howard was a top 300 player national and a top 100 pitcher when he committed to the Horned Frogs. After winning 25 games across three years of high school, big things were expected from the lanky freshman. But Howard was used in a limited role in his first year on campus, as he worked on his control and, in his words, his attitude.
According to Howard, he's just trying to live up to TCU's core values: selflessness, excellence and energy.
"When I was young here, I didn't really have the first two core values, so I had to really step it up on the third," Howard said. "That's just kind of been my thing."
As a true freshman, Howie appeared in nine games, posting a 2.77 ERA in 13.0 innings, striking out 14 and walking 10. A year later, he tripled his output, as he went 4-0 across four starts and 17 appearances, he struck out one per inning at 46 and 46.0, but had a 3.53 ERA. It was his junior year that he truly burst onto the scene, becoming a post-season legend and formulating his Big Game Howie personality, on and off the field.
Howard made 17 starts his junior year, becoming one of the best pitchers in the conference in the process. Howie won ten games that year, cementing his status as a top talent with 93 strikeouts in 98.2 innings and compiling a 10-2 record in the process. Four of those ten wins came in the postseason, as he beat Texas in the Big 12 Tournament, dominated Arizona State with nine Ks and 17 straight retired, and controlled the Aggies in College Station, allowing just one run on two hits with eight strikeouts. He also was the only TCU pitcher to beat Coastal Carolina, allowing one run on six hits in the College World Series.
Senior year, Howie became the Frogs’ first back to back ten game winner, winning a career high 12 games, posting a 3.77 ERA, and striking out 113 in 105 innings of work. He scuffled through the regular season some, but turned it on when the stakes were highest, throwing a complete game shutout, with 12 Ks, in a gem against Kansas to extend the Frogs Big 12 Tourney run. In Regional play, he shutdown a powerful Dallas Baptist offense - after allowing a two run shot in the bottom of the first, he held the Patriots to just two more hits across 6.2 total innings of work. In the Supers, he sent the Frogs to Omaha with a four hit, one run performance, striking out 11 in 7.1 innings and leaving Lupton for the last time to a boisterous standing O. Howie’s last start for the Frogs would come, fittingly, against Texas A&M; after TCU lost their opener against Florida, it fell to Big Game Howie to keep the Frogs’ Omaha dreams alive, and he delivered. Scattering five hits across 7.0 innings, Howard held the Aggies to just one run while striking out 12 and walking none. It was one of the best performances of his illustrious career, and a fitting way to leave the mound for the last time.
For all his outstanding exploits on the field, it was his personality off of it that most endeared Howie to his fans and teammates. Always the loudest voice in the dugout and the most exuberant celebrator, Howard was the first on the rail after a big play and always bounding out to greet a teammate at the end of every inning. He was as emotional on the mound as off of it, spinning off the rubber after a big strikeout and pumping his fist when he made a big play to end the inning. My favorite enduring image might be the one of him after Evan Skoug’s two run blast to give TCU the lead against Missouri State in the Super Regional opener, when he embodied all of our emotion as he screamed in joy.
Howard was drafted after his junior season, passing on the Astros, who picked him in the 17th round, to return for a senior campaign. He was picked by the A’s in the eighth round this year, and will join their farm system. I wouldn’t bet against Big Game Howie making the Show.
Thank you, Brian. For the memories, the victories, and the way you represented TCU - on and off the field. We are really going to miss you.