Desmond Kevin Howard (born May 15, 1970 in Cleveland, Ohio) is a former American football wide receiver, punt returner, and kick returner in the National Football League. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio.
He played for the Washington Redskins (1992-1994), Jacksonville Jaguars (1995), Green Bay Packers (1996, 1999), Oakland Raiders (1997-1998) and Detroit Lions (1999-2002). Prior to his professional career, he attended the University of Michigan where he won the Heisman Trophy in 1991. Howard also was voted the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXXI, and the only special teams player to win the award. He is currently a college football analyst for ESPN and will be the new color commentator for Detroit Lions pre-season games on The Detroit Lions Television Network.
High school career
Howard earned All-America and All-State honors as a tailback during his senior season at St. Joseph’s High School in Cleveland, Ohio, scoring 18 touchdown and 10 interceptions on defense. He earned three varsity letters
each in track and football, as well as one in basketball.
During his college career at the University of Michigan, Howard set or tied five NCAA and 12 Michigan records. He also lead the Big Ten Conference
in scoring with 138 points during the 1991 season on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy
, Maxwell Award
, Walter Camp Award
, and earning a First Team All-American
selection. Howard captured 85% of the first place votes in balloting for the Heisman, the largest margin in the history of the trophy at that time. Howard also earned a Bachelors degree in Communications in 1992.
After college, Howard was selected by the Washington Redskins in the first round, fourth overall in the 1992 NFL Draft. Howard's performance as a receiver was secondary to his skills as a punt and kick off returner throughout his 11 year career. Though he only recorded 92 receptions in his first four seasons, he excelled as a punt and kickoff returner throughout his career.
He was selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars
in the 1995 NFL Expansion Draft
. Howard only played one season with the Jacksonville Jaguars
. That season he had 26 receptions and one touchdown, with only 10 kick returns.
Green Bay Packers
His most notable professional season was in 1996
when he was playing for the Green Bay Packers
. He led the NFL in punt returns (58), punt return yards (870), punt return average (15.1), and punt return touchdowns (3), while also gaining 460 kickoff return yards and catching 13 passes for 95 yards. His 870 punt return yards were an NFL record, easily surpassing the old record of 692 yards set by Fulton Walker
. During the 1996 NFL post season
, Howard contributed a punt return
for a touchdown in a game between the Packers and the San Francisco 49ers
. The Packers reached Super Bowl XXXI
against the New England Patriots
The Packers took the lead at halftime 27-14 but Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe led his team on a short drive that ended with Curtis Martin's 18-yard touchdown run to pull the Patriots within six late in the third quarter. With new life, the Patriots boomed the ensuing kickoff to the one-yard line, but Howard effectively shattered the Patriots' hopes for a comeback with a Super Bowl record 99-yard kickoff return for a Packers touchdown. His return and the Packers' subsequent two-point conversion closed out the scoring of the game, and the Packers eventually won 35-21. Bill Parcells, the Patriots' head coach, commented after the game; "We had a lot of momentum and our defense was playing better, But [Howard] made the big play. That return was the game right there. He's been great all year and he was great again today". Howard totaled a Super Bowl record 90 punt return yards and 154 kickoff return yards with one touchdown; his 244 all-purpose yards also tied a Super Bowl record. His performance won him the Super Bowl MVP award, making Howard the first and only player to ever win the award based solely on a special teams performance.
Like Larry Brown
in the previous year, Howard became a free agent
after the season and used his status to collect a hefty contract from the Oakland Raiders
. He led the NFL in kickoff returns (61) and kickoff return yards (1,381). Howard spent the 1998 football season with the Raiders before re-joining the Packers in 1999.
In the middle of the 2000 season, he was traded to the Detroit Lions
, where he spent the rest of his career until his retirement after the 2002 season. In February 2001, he made his first and only Pro Bowl
appearance as the NFC's kick returner.
In his 11 NFL seasons, Howard caught 123 passes for 1,597 yards, rushed for 68 yards, returned 244 punts for 2,895 yards, and gained 7,595 yards returning 359 kickoffs. He also scored 15 touchdowns (7 receiving, 8 punt returns). Overall, Howard gained 12,155 all-purpose yards.
On May 6, 2005, EA Sports announced that Howard would be the cover athlete for their latest installment in the NCAA Football video game series, NCAA Football 06. This announcement is a departure for the series, which has traditionally featured college athletes who went to the NFL the previous year on its covers. He was chosen to highlight the new feature "Race for the Heisman," and his cover picture showed him striking his famous Heisman pose while at Michigan. He struck this pose after a punt return for a touchdown during the 1991 Michigan–Ohio State game.
Howard now works for ESPN
as a college football
analyst. He appears as an in-studio personality and, in 2007, began traveling with Chris Fowler
, Lee Corso
and Kirk Herbstreit
to marquee matchup sites during the season for the pre-game show ESPN College Gameday
and will be the new color commentator for Detroit Lions
pre-season games on WWJ-TV