Texans’ Tytus Howard reflects on his first-round draft

Tytus Howard walked into the Alabama State football offices last week and was greeted with a large action shot of himself in his Texas uniform as his alma mater unveiled an eight-foot mural of top to honor him as the top draft pick in school history.

The Texans’ 2019 first-round pick and starting offensive lineman was back on campus as the historically black college and university honored him for his accomplishments.

“It was pretty good to be back,” Howard said. “When I was a freshman, I came in as an extra. We always looked at all the NFL draft picks, they had a mural on the wall and stuff like that. I always thought to myself that one day I wanted to be there. So they called me and said, ‘Hey, Tytus, we have a surprise for you. We need you here for the spring game. When I came down , they surprised me with the mural on the wall, and that was just a huge accomplishment.

“It was just good to go back and give my knowledge back, my experience has been in the NFL to some of the players. They brought in some rookies, I got a chance to talk to a couple players coming out of high he just walk in and let the guys know that it doesn’t matter where you’re going, where you’re from. If you’re working, be consistent, the sky’s the limit for you guys.

A former high school quarterback and walk-on who gained 100 pounds to become an NFL draft prospect and break out of the Senior Bowl All-Star Game, Howard is a former rookie pick who started anywhere in the left tackle, right tackle and left guard. .

Although there has been considerable debate over where Howard should ideally line up with him to get much higher blocking ratings as a tackle than a guard, Howard has never stated a clear preference. . He simply lined up where the coaches ask him to operate.

“I think if you’re versatile, I think it just gives coaches more leeway for certain players they might want to bring in, or certain plays they want to run, thinking I’m versatile the way I am, able to put me at guard or at tackle,” Howard said. “I think that just helps the team in general and it helps me because I get to know all the plays and what everyone everyone has to do, so it’s only going to make me play faster when I’m out there.

“Position-wise, I’m really going to play where the team deems me most valuable, whether it’s guard or tackle. I’ve worked this offseason to become a better player in both, so I’m feel comfortable enough to play both.

Howard has started all 37 games he has appeared in since arriving in Houston.

At 6-foot-5 and 322 pounds, Howard plays the game with aggression, physicality, and a growing understanding of how best to harness his power in blocking strategies.

“Tytus Howard, he can play tackle, he can play guard,” Texans coach Lovie Smith said. “The more stuff you can do, absolutely, the more valuable you are to us and to your stock in general. I think if you have the right profile and you pick big athletes, little athletes, guys who with certain skills, they can do more than one thing, so that’s definitely the case.

Howard blasted his left leg at an angle while raising his hands and settling into a compact blocking position, looking natural and comfortable on his NFL regular season debut last season at the left pivot position against the New York Jets.

A former starting right tackle, Howard entered a position of need with two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil sidelined on injured reserve after undergoing thumb surgery to repair a torn ligament.

Although Howard was shoved by Jets defensive lineman Ronald Blair, pushing him into the backfield, for a sack by quarterback Tyrod Taylor as the Texans lost 21-14 as the team collectively allowed five sacks and eight quarterback hits with seven tackles for the loss. , Howard got high marks from an analysis standpoint and from the coaching staff.

Howard was the highest-ranked Texas player with an overall Pro Football Focus rating of 79.4. much higher at left tackle, a position he played as a rookie in a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.

At left tackle, however, against the Jets, Howard had an 86.4 pass blocking rating, as the sack awarded to Blair was the only obviously bad play.

Wherever Howard ends up playing next season, which could depend on what the Texans do in the draft, the Texans have confidence in his abilities.

“First of all you have a player who is a team guy where it doesn’t matter, like Tytus,” Smith said. “Our conversations, ‘Where do I have to play to help the football team?’ We have two outstanding coaches (Offensive Line Coaches George Warhop and Hal Hunter) who have been doing this for a long time with a great coordinator (Pep Hamilton).

“We’ll figure it all out. I’m just going to tell you he’ll be on the pitch somewhere. Are you talking about these great athletes? He’s a great athlete. If we had five guys like that, we’d be pretty happy. If this is a problem, we love this problem we have.

At 6-foot-5 and 322 pounds, Howard has the size, strength, athleticism and bad temper required to play tackle.

Signed to a four-year, $12.225 million deal that includes a fifth-year club option that the Texans determine if they’ll return to, Howard was in much better health last season. A year ago, he endured a difficult offseason that included recovering from knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, a procedure to fix a broken finger and dealing with offseason practices due to the coronavirus pandemic. .

Howard anticipates a ruthless approach from Hamilton to try to dramatically improve the management of football.

“I think the offensive line mentality with coach George Warhop, we’re going to be a lot more physical,” Howard said. “Nothing against our former manager, but I think we’re going to be physical up front. I think with Pep, his attack, we’re proud we can run football. We haven’t managed football well the last year, so I’m looking forward to being able to manage the ball very well in every game.

As the Texans prepare to draft in the first round for the first time since being selected, Howard recalled what it felt like to hear his name called and realize his newly minted status.

I was in Georgia at the time of the draft, I remember my family at home, probably 25 people from my family with me because I didn’t go to the draft,” said Howard, who was drafted. “Former Texans general manager Brian Gaine. “My agent (Peter Ariz), we all had a really good meeting. I’m just sitting with my family, having a great time, and I just got the phone call, “Hey, Tytus, we’re going to take you with the 23rd pick,” and I burst into tears because it’s is one of the most memorable and exciting moments of my life. I am totally grateful to the Texans for giving me the chance to come here and play professional football because you get paid to play a game that I would honestly play for free.

“I’m not saying I’ll play for free, let me say that. I love football, so I don’t play it sometimes because of the money, but I play it because I love the game. That was pretty good I always liked to watch it because I like to see the reactions of the guys, to see their families, their moms, the dad who spent all this time raising them the right way to see their children stepping up to make money and life-changing stuff. It’s always a blessing when that happens, so I love watching the draft.

Howard gave some advice to the Texans’ new rookie draft class: listen and learn. “I would just tell them to come in and get as much knowledge as you can from guys like me, or guys who’ve been here before and just be yourself. When I came here, I was getting a whole bunch of knowledge from all the guys that were around,” Howard said. “But I’m proud (of myself) of being myself and just learning from older guys and trying to find a way to learn from them, but kind of create my own style of how I want to be, what kind of player I wanted to be and what kind of things I wanted to do. It’s a big expectation. When you get here, you have to perform, especially as a first-round pick. I would just tell these guys to come in, be themselves, stay focused. It’s gonna be hard, but it’s gonna be okay. »

Aaron Wilson is a reporter and analyst for Pro Football Network and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.

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