By Rubin E. Grant
Trent Howard doesn’t remember how much he weighed when he was in the seventh grade.
What he does remember is how his jersey fit his 5-foot-9 frame.
“I was No. 76 and my jersey swallowed me up,” Howard said with a laugh.
Howard was one of the smallest linemen on his middle school football team, but late in his eighth grade year, he hit a growth spurt and has continued to grow throughout his high school career at Briarwood Christian.
He’s now the biggest lineman on the Lions’ offensive line at 6 feet, 4 inches and 285 pounds.
“We knew when he was younger he had a big body, a big frame that he could grow into, too, and he has,” first-year Briarwood head coach Matthew Forrester said.
Howard, a senior, isn’t just big; he can move, he’s versatile, and he’s smart. He can play any position on the offensive line.
“He’s probably the best offensive lineman we’ve ever had,” Forrester said. “He’s tough and aggressive and he understands the game. He calls the blocking signals and checks us into good run plays and better pass protection.
“He’s a power blocker, but he has some of the best feet on the team. He’s incredibly flexible and so quick.
“We’re building an offensive scheme for linemen who are 220 pounds and he just happens to be 285. We run some plays that require more speed for our offensive linemen, and he gets to the spots he needs to because he’s so nimble and quick, and then he can maul (defenders) when he gets there.”
Howard’s agility is something he was blessed with.
“One of my strengths since I’ve been playing the game is my ability to move,” he said. “In our new offense, I have to make some adjustments and work on my speed some, but I’ve enjoyed it.”
In the Lions’ first four games, Howard had a 94 percent overall blocking grade and 19 pancake blocks.
“He’s hit another level this season,” Forrester said. “He’s dominant.”
Briarwood began the season with two losses but has won three consecutive games, including a 21-10 victory against Class 6A Hartselle last week. The Lions (3-2) will play host to John Carroll Catholic (2-4) at 7 p.m. Friday in a Class 5A, Region 4 game.
“We’ve got a new head coach and I’m enjoying our new type of program,” Howard said. “It’s exciting for sure. I’m enjoying being a leader.
“I think I’ve played well, but with me there’s always something to work on. I’m looking to get better with my hand placement, getting a good jam on defenders. My footwork is always something I work on.”
Versatility is a Plus
Howard’s versatility has been on display throughout the season.
“We’re playing him primarily at left tackle, but he can move around and play other positions,” Forrester said. “The only position he hadn’t played this season is center and that’s only because we have a center, Clayton Rasmussen, who is doing a great job.”
Howard believes his versatility is beneficial for him and the team.
“Being versatile helps me,” he said, “and I really want do whatever I can to help the team.”
When Howard began playing football, he was a wide receiver. After reaching middle school, he shifted to tight end in the sixth grade and by the seventh grade, he made the transition to the offensive line.
“I always knew I would end up on the line because of my body, and that’s how it turned out,” Howard said. “I was excited about the move to the offensive line. I love it.
“To me, it’s not just about one person doing their job, but it involves everybody on the line being on the same page. When everybody is taking the right step, it’s a thing of beauty.”
Howard’s dad, Johnny Howard, was an offensive lineman at Jess Lanier High School (now Bessemer City) and at the University of Alabama. He was a member of the Crimson Tide’s 1992 national championship.
Johnny Howard wore No. 75 and his son proudly dons that number now at Briarwood.
But Trent Howard won’t be following in his dad’s footsteps at Alabama. Instead, he has committed to Georgia Tech, primarily because of new Yellow Jackets’ head coach Geoff Collins and new offensive line coach Brent Key. Key, a Trussville native, most recently coached at Alabama.
“I considered a bunch of other schools, including Louisville and Troy,” Howard said. “But everything felt right at Georgia Tech, plus I developed a good relationship with coach Key.
“I’ll be able to further my academic career and my family will be able to come see me play since it’s only 2½ hours away.”