I originally had Desmond Howard penciled in for the start of the year in my initial January send out, but for some reason kept kicking that can further down the road. I’m really glad I finally got him, as I’m sure the acclaimed athlete will soon be overwhelmed with requests. Going to Michigan in 1989, Howard switched from tailback to wide receiver for the Wolverines. From there he’d go on to rewrite the record books for much of the school when it came to receiving records (12) and NCAA records (5). After a breakout 1990, with 63 receptions,1025 yards, and 11 TDs receiving, Desmond ran away with the Heisman in 1991 posting 19 touchdowns receiving on 62 catches. Howard could not be stopped as a receiver or returner, and he was so confident that he’d win the award, that after burning rival Ohio State in a game, he struck a Heisman pose. (Desmond at this time still holds the record for the largest margin of victory in Heisman voting, nabbing about 85% of the vote in 1991 for the award.)
Before the 1992 draft, Desmond was being touted as the next Rocket Ismail with electric speed that amazed and wowed fans. The Redskins after they won the 1991 SuperBowl traded up and picked Howard with the 4th overall pick. With a fleet set of receivers already that were seeing a bit of wear and tear (Monk, Clark, and Sanders,) the Redskins wanted Howard to be the lead receiver of the next generation of Skins receivers- but instead he was stuck on return duties. Desmond in 1994 recorded career highs in receptions (40), yards (727), and TDs (5), however with the emergence of Brian Mitchell, Howard had generally seen his playing time shrink as a return man. Usually this is a good thing for a receiver, but in Desmond’s case he found himself dangled out by the Redskins as part of the 1995 NFL Expansion Draft.
Taken with the 55th pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Howard was sparsely used by the Jaguars on offense and special teams. Essentially fans thought he was washed up, but just as everybody gave up Howard, Desmond obviously had something left in him. Nobody really even blinked an eye when Desmond was signed via free agency by the Packers, who were looking for an extra spark in the return game. Howard displayed his signature abilities at returning, and destroyed special teams’ units single-handedly setting the NFL record for most punt return yards in a season with 875, and recorded 3 touchdowns. At the conclusion of the season, Desmond won the Super Bowl XXXI MVP honors, with a 99 yard touchdown return, and 244 total yards from scrimmage against the New England Patriots. Howard got snapped up by the Raiders after the season, and had a solid outing as a returner for the team leading the league with 1381 yards on 61 return in 1997. He also had a stellar 541 yards and 2 TDs punt returning in 1998 but he snubbed on Pro Bowl voting. Desmond was content to return to the Packers for a second stint in 1999, but found himself surprisingly traded to the Lions midway through 2000. It turned out to be a blessing as Howard reached the ProBowl for the first time in his career, after recording a 14.7 average on PR and 24.6 on KR. With injuries and age finally catching up with him in 2002, Howard decided to hang up his cleats after the season after establishing himself as one of the most explosive punt return men in league history.
Desmond has gone into broadcasting where he has garnered quite a positive reputation as a public speaker and college football analyst, currently appearing on ESPN. In 2011 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and has appeared on the cover of NCAA Football 06 in his signature Heisman pose.
G/Gs 156/29 Rec 123 Yds 1597 Avg 13.0 Td 7 Lg 81t
Kr 359 Yds 7959 Avg 22.2 Td 0 Lg 91
Pr 244 Yds 2895 Avg 11.8 Td 8 Lg 95t