North Canton (Ohio) Hoover star junior Erick Howard became the first Stark County player to win the Ohio Mr. Football award, when he captured the honor this past season. Howard rushed for 2,387 yards and scored 31 touchdowns, in leading Hoover into the state semi-finals, where they lost to eventual state champion Cleveland St. Ignatius.
"The award was a big surprise to me, and I couldn't believe it when they said I won it," Howard said. "I was hoping to get the Stark County MVP award, but I never thought about Mr. Football. I'm surprised to be the first person from Stark County to ever win it, because there have been a lot of great players come from this area."
Howard was proud of the season he and his teammates achieved, but admitted he was hoping for a state title.
"We had a great season, and a lot of people see us as over-achievers, but our goal was a state championship," he stated. "We probably did the unthinkable by getting as far as we did, but after playing St. Ignatius, now we know what we have to shoot for. We need to get back in the weight room, and get started on getting ready for next season."
Howard has admitted to having a troubled past, but has totally turned his life around, and credits his head coach, Don Hertler. Hertler has spoken fondly of the turnaround in Howard's attitude, and the youngster appreciates his coach's trust.
"Coach Hertler is a great man, and he has helped me so much," Howard said. "He's a great coach, but he's a better person. Once you get to know him like I do, on a personal level, you realize that there's no reason to be intimidated by him, and that he cares so much about all his players."
Howard, 5-foot-10 and 210-pounds, is starting to attract a lot of recruiting attention, and as his academic situation improves, he will see more offers coming his way.
"I kind of messed around as a freshman and sophomore, but I'm doing good now in the classroom," he stated. "I got a 3.0 grade point average in the first nine-week grading period. I think I can do better than that, and plan on doing better. I'm taking the ACT test soon, and I'm working on the practice test right now."
He has received four scholarship offers, and is hoping to earn an offer from his favorite school.
"I have offers from Cincinnati, Kent State, Akron and Colorado," he said. "I'm keeping my options open, but I'm hoping for Ohio State to offer me. That's the one I'm really looking for."
Howard attended one of the Ohio State bowl practices, and spent time with several Buckeye coaches, including head coach Jim Tressel.
"I was down there for their recruiting day, and talked to Coach Jim Tressel," Howard explained. "He flat-out told me to get my grades up and I could be a Buckeye. That's what I wanted to hear. (Offensive line) coach (Jim) Bollman comes to the school to talk to my coach, and he checks in on me. It was amazing watching them scrimmage, and I love playing power football. The running backs coach, "Doc" Tressel talked to me, and he said they're interested, but he said the same thing about my grades. Hearing the Ohio State coaches say that really motivates me to do better academically. I know I need to maintain a 3.0 average, but I want to do a lot better than that. Ohio State is my favorite school. Next would be Miami of Florida, but they're not really recruiting me at all. I just need to keep doing good, and everything will work out fine."
North Canton junior tailback Erick Howard had a tremendous junior season, one that saw him win the coveted Ohio Mr. Football award. Howard is also receiving a lot of attention from college recruiters, and has picked up four early scholarship offers. How does Howard feel about Ohio State? Bill Greene has the latest on this fine prospect.
Bill Greene has the latest on this prospect.