In reality, the question that should be asked here is: why aren’t we just giving this award to Howard?
We could argue his entire body of work, as the leading tackler in TCU history with 343 takedowns, or that this was his third consecutive season to lead the team in tackles (a TCU first) and that he recorded over 100 tackles in each of those seasons.
But to go beyond this past year would be unfair, so we’ll focus on his 2017, where Howard was awarded the Alamo Bowl Defensive MVP (for the second time in three years), led the team with 108 tackles, and was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the 7th round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He was also named to the All-Big 12 First Team (for the second consecutive season), and earned honorable mention for the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Howard had five games in 2017 with 10+ tackles. He recorded 15 tackles in the Big 12 Championship game, 13 tackles in TCU’s first game against OU, 12 against West Virginia, 10 against Texas, and 10 tackles, plus two pass breakups, in TCU’s win over Stanford in the Alamo Bowl.
Howard’s presence on the field was one of precise violence. He knew exactly where he needed to be, all the time. he knew where his teammates were going to be. He knew where the blockers were going to be. And time after time, he executed is 1/11 to perfection.
His football IQ is through the roof, as it has to be to play linebacker in Gary Patterson’s 4-2-5, and he was a commander on the field between plays.
More importantly, though, was his leadership off the field. Howard never got into trouble, he worked hard in the classroom, at practice, and in the weight room, and he set the example of what it means to be a student-athlete. His impact goes well beyond Amon G. Carter stadium.
It’s not often you get to witness the career of an all-time TCU great, but Frog fans were graced with Howard’s presence for the last four years, and he gave TCU his all once again his senior season.