One of four people to win both the Heisman Trophy and a Super Bowl MVP is former University of Michigan wide receiver Desmond Howard. He is this weeks topic for our Throwback Thursday.
Howard lived in Cleveland, Ohio and played his high school football at St Joseph High School as a running back. Having a great senior year and setting a rushing record he was heavily recruited by a lot of colleges. Howard narrowed it down to his top 5 schools; Georgia Tech, Michigan, Michigan State, Syracuse and Purdue. Even though he lived in Ohio, he never even took a unofficial visit to Ohio State because of new coach Cooper.
After going to Ann Arbor to meet Coach Bo Schembechler, he knew this is where he belonged. Howard also labeled coach Gary Moeller as a great recruiter. Howard made the call to coach Moeller and gave his commitment to the Wolverines.
In 1989 Howard began his historical career at Michigan. In his freshman year he had limited playing time, only scoring 2 touchdowns. The next year was quite different. He found the end zone 12 times as a sophomore, had 1,025 receiving yards and 500 plus return yards. Howard would later say that one of his favorite games was the defeat that year at Notre Dame. Although statistically he played well, the wolverines was defeated in a electric, hostile atmosphere.
Then came 1991, a record setting season and one I will never forget. September 14 they would face the Irish at home. After the near riots outside the stadium was contained, we would see a outstanding football game. With 9 minutes left to play, the Wolverines were facing a 4th and 1. Behind on the scoreboard, I thought they would just run the ball and get the first down, boy was I wrong. QB Elvis Grbac dropped back and aired it out toward #21 Howard. It first looked as if the ball was overthrown but the 5’9″ Howard dove straight in the air stretching his arms out to the max to grab Grbac’s pass, landing in the end zone for the touchdown. This was known at Michigan as “The Catch”.
During the season Howard had over 1,100 all purpose yards and 23 touchdowns. Another big game for him was against Michigan’s greatest rival, Ohio State. Michigan would win the game 31-3 but it was one play by Howard that would steal the show, the unforgettable pose. Howard caught a punt around the 7 yard line, flys past a couple of defenders, with only one guy even touching him. He races down the left side of the field and scores on a 93 yard punt return. As the crowd roars, Howard gives a historical Heisman pose in the end zone.
The famous pose is still seen today on commercials and other media clips and it is something I will never forget witnessing. This would be a type and shadow of things to come, as he won the Heisman trophy by the 2nd largest margin ever. All Howard did in 1991 was become a 1st team All American, win the Heisman trophy, Big Ten offensive player of the year, win the Maxwell Award and the Walter Camp player of the year award. He was also first in the Big Ten in receptions, and 1st in the NCAA in touchdowns.
Howard would be the 4th pick in the 1992 NFL draft by the Washington Redskins. He played with several teams over the next 11 years but his greatest year was 1996. He went to the Super Bowl with the Packers, where he became the first special teams player to win the MVP.
In 2011, Howard was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. A few months later he was honored at The Big House during a game vs Notre Dame, as the inaugural Michigan Football Legend. This was more than just retiring his #21 jersey. From then on the #21 jersey will have a patch on it with Desmond Howard’s name on it and the first to wear it was Junior Hemingway. After this Howard said “My Michigan experiences make me the man that I am today, a Michigan Man”. Today he is a ESPN college football analyst and a commentator for College GameDay.
Thank you Desmond Howard for giving all of us Michigan fans so many spectacular catches and being one of the most electrifying players ever. Thank you for always representing Michigan with great character and integrity. This is why he is worthy of being this weeks selection for Throwback Thursday! #tbt
Chad Finley, a TBHR contributor. Follow me on Twitter @Finfive1