Howard is helping Cougs in more ways than one
The WSU basketball team desperately needs quality big men. The WSU football team desperately needs to improve on defense, which is one reason Howard was quickly hired after being let go at UCLA following last season.
Howard, a defensive assistant on the 2000 Super Bowl champions of St. Louis, coached Brian Price (now with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers) when the UCLA tackle won the 2009 Defensive Player of the Year award in the Pac-10.
Howard, 46, has coached in college or the NFL since 1991.
"I just like his demeanor," WSU defensive end Travis Long said. "He's pretty calm. If you mess up, he's going to let you know. At the same time, he's not going to start yelling at you and get in your head where you can't focus and you're thinking about not messing up instead of just playing your game."
Malik Roberson, who followed head coach Paul Wulff from Eastern Washington in 2008, was fired as Washington State's defensive line coach after last season. Long said Roberson was "more vocal" than Howard.
"I don't have any problem getting yelled at," Long said, "but if it's not constructive, it just gets in my head and makes me mad.
"Coach Ball (defensive coordinator Chris Ball) has yelled at me plenty of times, but he has a reason, so it's not a big deal."
Howard said the adjustment from Los Angeles to Pullman has been an easy one for him in one way in particular.
"Here, it's a five-minute drive to my home," Howard said with a smile.
Howard, who starred at Texas A&M, is accustomed to living in small college towns like Pullman. He coached at Louisiana Tech in Ruston (pop. 22,000) and at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa (pop. 9,100).
Howard laughed when he recalled that his duties at Grinnell including serving as the assistant sports information director. He wrote press releases, ran the game clock at basketball games and, according to Howard, watched far more NCAA Division III women's basketball games than he ever cares to see again.
At WSU, of course, Howard only has to worry about coaching football. It's a job he cherishes.
"As a coach, we're teachers as well," Howard said. "We meet in a classroom setting and we teach the guys how to play football, how to play the position.
"You like it when you spend 45 minutes teaching your class and he's able to go out there and do what you taught him. That's very, very fulfilling for a football coach.
"In contrast to that, you hate it when you have a class and you go over stuff, you go out there and then a guy doesn't know how to do it. It makes your job hard."
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