Senior Linebacker Patrick Howard doesn't want to be on the field long
By Philip Clelland
Arizona Athletic Media Relations
When it comes to football, most people get excited about the game from an offensive point of view. But what few people realize is how important a team’s defense is to winning games. The defense has one simple goal: stop the other team as quickly as possible and get back to the sideline.
That’s how senior linebacker Patrick Howard said it, anyway.
“My mindset when I am on the field is to get off the field as soon as I can,” said Howard. “Whether we get a three and out or cause a turnover, I don’t care. We just try to find the quickest way to get off the field.”
The 5-foot, 11-inch native of La Marque, Texas, is one of Arizona’s more low-key players when he is off the field. But when he takes to the gridiron, you can be sure that he’ll be called on a number of times throughout the game.
“I definitely think I have an important role on our defense,” Howard said. “We just go out there to limit the time of possession of the other team. The defense is one of the biggest factors in the game.”
Anyone who sits down for a chat with Howard will quickly see how modest he is about his athletic talent. In 2003 he started five games for the Wildcats, and his efforts did not go unnoticed by the coaching staff. Howard was designated a starter in the first four home games for Arizona.
“Patrick is a very important player on our defense,” linebackers coach Tim Kish said. “He always comes ready to give his best effort. He continues to be an impact player for us, always trying to get in on the play,”
Through the Wildcats’ opening homestand, Howard recorded 15 solo tackles along with eight assists. He also has been in on two forced fumbles.
As one of the team’s senior leaders, Howard is constantly looking for ways to improve his game. Heading into the UCLA game, he took note of the little things that can help him and his teammates to be more effective.
“The last couple of weeks, we have had time to reflect, and we have realized that it is the little things we need to focus on in order to get that edge,” said Howard. “We have to work on our technique and get into the gaps. Everyone has been great about being on the same page. We just need to play hard and eliminate the little mistakes so that we can have that perfect game.”
As with many athletes, Howard finds strength in his religion. He says it keeps him inspired and motivated to play to the best of his ability.
“God is definitely my most important motivator, especially since I am so far away from home,” Howard said. “I just pray everyday that the Lord will keep me healthy and allow me to do the things that I can do.”
He also looks up to his brother, Derrick, who played professional football with the Chicago Bears.
“I look up to Derrick, and he has taught me a lot of things,” Howard said. “If I get the chance to play pro ball, then I will know what to do. He knows how the business works. Given that opportunity, I just plan on staying healthy so that I can play as long as possible.”
Though Howard has spent his collegiate career weathering difficult times with the Wildcat football program, he is quick to remember the highlights.
“The best game of my career has to be the Washington game from last year,” Howard said. “They were a good team to beat. We fought hard, and it had been a long time since we had won at home. Hopefully the next great moment for the program will be when we have a winning season and are headed to a bowl game.”
At the halfway point in the season, Howard has a positive outlook for his post-Wildcat future. Whatever path he decides to take, it is likely to include football in one form or another.
“If my playing days are over, then I would like to coach somewhere down the line,” said Howard. “Whether I get a chance to coach high school, college, or professional, that is just something I would love to do. Outside of coaching, I can also see myself with a job in marketing or public relations for a football team. And if the Lord blesses me, I would love to continue my career in the NFL.”
With less than half the season left for the Wildcats, Howard hopes his time on the field will be limited. Not because he’s tired, and not because he doesn’t want to play. It’s because he hopes his defensive squad will be getting the job done right.
“I am expecting for us to be in every game from here on out until the final minute,” Howard said. “We know that we can play with all of the teams on our schedule. There is nothing we can’t do at this point.”
This article first appearaed in the Oct. 23 Arizona football game program