Howard ready to lead defense in senior season

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TCU senior linebacker Travin Howard was an All-Big 12 first teamer and led the conference in tackles in 2016, but head coach Gary Patterson expects even better from the senior in 2017.

“Travin was really hurt most of the year last year,” Patterson said. “He had 130 tackles in the Big 12 at 198 pounds. Now he can lift, he can run, and he can do things. He’s back up to 215, 217.”

Howard backed Patterson’s comments by saying that being healthy is everything. He said that he has worked hard in the weight room to regain his muscle.

“That’s pretty much football,” Howard said of bouncing back from injuries to get stronger. “You get out there and trust what you know and trust the process that you put yourself through, and then everything else will fall in place.”

Howard came to TCU as a safety, but the coaching staff moved him to linebacker when a need opened up for the 2015 season. The defensive back turned All-Conference linebacker has stepped up with consecutive 100 tackle seasons for the Horned Frogs. Howard said that having Patterson move him to linebacker showed the trust the coach has in him.

“Coming from safety to a position that you have never played before, and he’s throwing you in the game, that’s nothing but trust,” Howard said. “He trusts what he knows and he knows what he’s talking about, so you have to trust him because he trusts you. His resume speaks for itself, so I was ready when the time came.”

With the accolades and stats, comes a responsibility to lead the rest of the defense, but Howard has a plan to do just that.

“First, leading by example,” Howard said. “You have to have the right character. You have to do the right thing when people are watching. There’s just more eyes on you. You’re like the face of the defense, so when more eyes are watching you, you always have to be on your p’s and q’s.”

With Howard primed to return as a top linebacker for the Frogs in 2017, he knows that he can go beyond the field to make his biggest impact.

“I wouldn’t say that I can take the team to the next level, but I just try to keep everybody focused and humble,” Howard said. “I let them know to never get too big-headed and to never get too down.”

Reflecting back, Howard is grateful that TCU gave him a chance to play at college football’s highest level.

“I was blessed to get this opportunity to play at this institution,” Howard said. “I didn’t have many offers coming out of high school. I had UT San Antonio and this, so when I got the call from TCU telling me to come on an official visit and I got my offer right then, I just knew.”

Recruiting players with few offers and low rankings, and then turning them into stars on the field has been a trend that has run throughout Patterson’s entire tenure. Ty Summers, Julius Lewis, and others join Howard as active players that have made a significant impact despite holding two or less offers.

“They do a good job of recruiting,” Howard said. “They actually sit down and evaluate the players that they are recruiting, instead of just offering a guy just because he has a certain amount of stars or because he’s done this or done that.”

Howard, alongside Summers, are considered by many to be the top linebacker duo in the conference heading into the season.

“He’s a hard worker, so it’s encouraging to have a dude that also wants to be successful as bad as you do,” Summer said. “He started off being really quiet when he got here, so it was kind of hard to read him, but he’s the kind of guy that just goes out there and works. He leads by example, and now he has become more of a vocal leader on top of that, so he’s turning into a really solid teammate.”