Heading into Year 5 on campus, not many know the halls of Jones AT&T Stadium quite like defensive end Eli Howard.
Howard spent a year redshirting at North Texas before taking a chance and walking on at Texas Tech. But at this point, the sixth-year senior has been around so long that he has both his undergraduate degree and MBA from Texas Tech in hand.
“It’s like home for me,” Howard said. “I’m a West Texas kid. Lubbock as a community is so inviting and welcoming. I’ve been here so long, I really know a lot of people in Lubbock. I’ve been able to develop those relationships.”
For all the love West Texas gives Howard, he gives them his heart and soul back on the football field. His motor is relentless and allowed him to lead the Red Raiders in sacks during his first year on campus. Howard’s knowledge of offense stems from playing quarterback at San Angelo Central until his junior year of high school; he uses every detail to his advantage.
“He’s like having a coach out there,” Matt Wells said. “He’s completely, 100 percent bought in. He’s one of the hardest workers in the program. In everything that he does, he takes pride, and his work ethic is unmatched.”
Heading into Year 4 as a starter, Howard is an edge-setting, pass-rushing defensive end who has managed to thrive against Big 12 offenses while working through multiple coaching staffs and schemes. Now, he adds another descriptor: senior captain.
“There’s just something about being a senior,” defensive coordinator Keith Patterson said. “At the end of the day, that’s how you’re going to be remembered.”
The Red Raiders have made significant strides defensively over the past two seasons. In a big win over Oklahoma State, Howard posted four tackles, combined for a strip sack and helped keep Doak Walker Award finalist Chuba Hubbard to just 4.6 yards per carry. The next week, he had a sack and QB hurry to take Big 12 finalist Baylor to double-overtime.
There’s nothing spectacular about his biggest moments. His only elite quality is unparalleled consistency. But while building a culture in West Texas, there’s not much more you could want.
“He epitomizes what West Texas is all about,” Patterson said. “He’s blue collar tough. His approach, his work ethic, the discipline. Man, he just wants to finish and see this program turned around.”
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