Naturally, Hawkins wanted to see the running back turn heads. So Howard did, at practice and on film.
But he didn’t quite leave his impression on Hawkins until UAB’s first game last season against Troy.
“That Troy game, the first game, it was unbelievable,” Hawkins said.
Howard, who transferred to IU this month, ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries that game. It was just the beginning of a 1,587-yard season with 13 touchdowns and only two fumbles.
By now, Hawkins is familiar with Howard, a true junior. The two are good friends and both set to join the Hoosiers for the 2015 season.
When Howard steps onto the field, he’ll be lining up in the same place that junior running back Tevin Coleman stood before ?declaring for the NFL draft.
Howard has stressed he’s not trying to replace Coleman, but rather add his own flair to the Hoosiers’ offense.
But what, exactly, is that? What was it that made him turn his teammates’ heads at UAB?
“He don’t go down on the first tackle,” Hawkins said. “He’s a good player. He can see the holes. He’s got good vision. He’s about to do good things at Indiana.”
When Howard is running, he doesn’t think about being hit. He prides himself on his toughness. The 6-foot-1, 228-pound rusher wants to be the one doing the ?hitting.
A physical back, Howard doesn’t like being brought to the ground. He intends to bring that hard-nosed running style with him to Memorial Stadium.
“I feel like my physicality is my running style,” Howard said. “My running style, I think never give up and never let the first man tackle you, so I just try to break ?every tackle.”
Howard would have never ended up in Bloomington had he not been able to shake off the blow of the news that the UAB program was shutting down.
When the players were called together and told by the university president that they wouldn’t have a team any longer, Howard stood up from his seat.
He wanted to leave, but his coaches wouldn’t let him. The news pulled ?Howard down emotionally.
At first, he wouldn’t take calls from other coaches, but he knew he needed to ?move on.
Among the first schools to contact him was IU, a program Howard admits he didn’t know much about.
He knew about some of the players, headlined by Coleman, whose 2,000-yard season attracted Howard to IU with the possibility of doing the same.
He also knew a bit about IU Coach Kevin Wilson from his time at Oklahoma, where he coached Adrian ?Peterson.
Howard visited Bloomington with Hawkins and said he instantly felt a connection to the coaches and teammates, like his host, freshman running back Devine Redding. Howard said he felt he’d fit in nicely with the team looking to replace Coleman, one of the most successful players in the program’s history.
So now, the running back who made waves at UAB will once again be tested in Bloomington.
“We’re getting a great kid, a lot like Tevin in his maturity, academic background and his family background,” Wilson said. “Very mature kid and to me a very proven player that, to me, is filling a void.”