Desmond Howard was born in Cleveland, Ohio on May 15, 1970. Howard earned All-Ohio and All-American honors as a senior tailback at St. Joseph’s High School in Cleveland. Howard rushed for 1,499 yards as a senior, plus scored 18 touchdowns and had 10 interceptions on defense.
Instead of staying in his home state of Ohio and playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes, Howard decided to play college football at rival Michigan and play for the Wolverines. While at Michigan, Howard set or tied five NCAA and 12 Michigan records.
He also led the Big Ten in scoring with 138 points during the 1991 season on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award and Walter Camp Award, earning first-team All-American honors. That season, Howard caught 62 passes for 985 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also rushed for 180 yards and two more scores. On special teams, Howard was a real threat, as he returned both a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown in his final season as a Wolverine.
In the 1992 NFL draft, Howard was the fourth overall pick in the first round by the Washington Redskins. As a rookie for the Redskins, Howard returned a punt for a touchdown and made the NFL All-Rookie Team. In three years with Washington, Howard had 66 receptions for 1,033 and five touchdowns, as his receiving skills were secondary to his return skills. Howard then spent one year with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995 via the NFL expansion draft, as he had 26 catches for 276 yards and a touchdown.
But in 1996, Howard had a year for the ages when he joined the Green Bay Packers as a free agent. In that magical season, when Howard was the punt and kickoff returner for the Packers, No. 81 returned 58 punts for 875 yards and three touchdowns, plus returned 22 kickoffs for 460 yards.
But in the postseason, Howard truly made a name for himself, as he returned nine punts for 210 yards (23.3-yard average), plus returned nine kickoffs for 277 yards (30.1 yard average) for a touchdown. That 99-yard touchdown came in Super Bowl XXXI, when Howard gave the momentum back to the Packers, after the New England Patriots had closed to within one score of the Packers. Green Bay won the game 35-21 and Howard was named the MVP of the game, as he also returned six punts for 90 yards in the game.
Howard then spent two years with the Oakland Raiders via free agency before he briefly returned to the Packers for part of the 1999 season. Howard spent the last three years of his NFL career in Detroit with the Lions, as he was named to the Pro Bowl squad in 2000 as a punt returner.
Overall in his NFL career, Howard returned 244 punts for 2,985 yards and eight touchdowns.
Desmond Howard currently works for ESPN as a college football analyst.
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