Southwest grad Howard has breakout year at Dartmouth
By Greg Bates
After a standout career with the Green Bay Southwest football program, Nick Howard was ready to make a name for himself in college.
As a freshman at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., Howard was mostly reserved to the junior varsity team.
His sophomore season was a wash due to COVID-19.
When Howard got to play this season, he didn’t waste the opportunity.
Howard led the Big Green in rushing with 787 yards and tied a 92-year school record of 15 rushing touchdowns.
“Coming into the year, I didn’t know what kind of role I was going to have,” Howard said. “I expected to have a short-yardage, running-the-ball role, and it developed into something bigger. It was all about helping the team win.”
Win is what Dartmouth did.
The Big Green finished 9-1 overall and won the Ivy League title for the second straight season.
“We had our one slip up against Columbia, but other than that, the team played amazing,” Howard said. “We’re never picked to be at the top of the conference, but every year we try and challenge that.”
In the dual quarterback system, Howard was mostly used as the team’s wildcat quarterback.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound bruising runner was in for short-yard situations — taking mostly direct snaps out of the wildcat — and also ripped off plenty of long gains.
“Nothing would have been possible without the offensive line, receivers, running backs, tight ends and the coaching staff,” Howard said. “It was an amazing season, and I look back on it fondly. I’m going to have some amazing memories.”
Howard finished with three 100-yard rushing and six multi-touchdown games.
He finished first in the Ivy League in touchdowns and third in rushing yards.
Howard, who was named first-team all-conference as a running back, had his signature game against Cornell Nov. 13.
He rushed for a career-high 172 yards on 13 carries and scored four touchdowns.
For his efforts, Howard was named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week for the second time on the season.
“I wouldn’t be doing anything out there without the rest of my teammates, so I want to make sure they’re getting the credit they deserve,” Howard said. “The offensive line gets overlooked lots. It’s awesome. The Ivy League is a competitive league with some good players. To receive that recognition is cool.”
Being able to have a big game against Cornell was a little extra special for Howard.
During high school, Howard originally committed to South Dakota and then changed to Cornell to play linebacker.
He ultimately chose Dartmouth.
“Sometimes the decommitment thing gets overhyped,” Howard said. “It was a beautiful day, and it felt better because they stole one from us two years ago. Getting that back was the best feeling.”
For the season, Howard averaged 6.3 yards per attempt, despite plenty of short-yardage carries at the goal line.
That yardage was good for 16th out of all of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams.
“A combination of being aggressive and the mentality you know we’re running the ball, we know we’re running the ball, so go ahead and try and stop us,” Howard said. “The offensive line did an amazing job with the tight ends and the running backs blocking every week – we got on people. We want to be physical, and that mentality allowed me and the team to be successful.”
With Dartmouth’s other half of the two-quarterback system, Derek Kyler — who was relied on as more of the throwing quarterback — graduating, that will open up more of an expansive role next season for Howard.
“I’m hoping to move into a much stronger passing role,” Howard said. “I believe I’m a capable passer. With the quarterback situation we had with (Kyler), that’s a guy you don’t want to take off the field, especially when it comes to throwing the ball. I don’t know exactly what will happen, but I feel good my role is going to develop to add a much larger part of the offense.”
Howard was limited as a passer this past season, finishing 11-for-18 for 126 yards and one touchdown.
As a senior at Southwest in 2018, Howard threw for 2,004 yards and rushed for 648 yards, so he’s capable of being an effective passer.
He said adding in the passing aspect to become a dual-threat quarterback will make it tougher for Ivy League defenses to slow him down.
“The plan is they won’t be able to stop it,” Howard said. “There’s a lot of other things that play into that, but if we can stay with the aggressive rushing mentality and then add on that extra layer, it’s going to be a problem for the other teams in the league.”
Because a large chunk of student-athletes lost out on full seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA granted every student-athlete an extra year of eligibility.
So, Howard is a junior in school, but a sophomore for athletics.
Does he plan on playing one or two more seasons on the Dartmouth football team?
“That’s to be seen what I’m going to do,” Howard said. “Barring injuries or anything, I’d like to use all the years I have left. I love playing, so depending on how the cards and chips fall, that’s for the future to figure out.”
Howard is majoring in government modified with economics, a split major, with an emphasis in government.
He’s still thinking about what he’d like to do after college.
Getting a sound education at an Ivy League school is of the utmost importance for Howard, he said, but he certainly enjoys using football as an escape from the everyday grind of his classwork.
“That’s the beautiful thing about Dartmouth,” Howard said. “It’s such a small population that 40-50% of the students are athletes, so there’s a huge community of us who understand that’s part of our identity. That’s part of what we do. Learning to balance the school, athletics and all the other responsibilities, it’s a level of understanding between everybody that’s appreciated. We try and help each other out as much as we can. It’s part of the experience and part of why I love it so much.”