Howard had something to prove against Auburn

by - Senior Writer -
Howard was the leading rusher for the Tigers against Auburn.

CLEMSON – D.J. HowardD.J. Howard
RS Fr. Running Back
#22 5-11, 190
Lincoln, AL

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had a lot to prove this past Saturday.

And everybody he wanted to prove something to was in attendance at the Clemson’s game against No. 21 Auburn – friends and family who had made the drive up from Lincoln, Ala.; Clemson fans and coaches; his teammates; and the Auburn coaching staff.

Howard had committed to Auburn during his junior year at Lincoln High School, but kept hearing that Auburn wanted him to play defensive back and not his preferred spot at running back.

Howard said he questioned the Auburn coaches, and the Auburn coaches were non-committal on the subject.

“I heard rumors about me going to defensive back, and I didn’t feel very comfortable,” Howard said earlier this week. “I’ve been playing running back for 13 years. It’s hard to take me out of my element, get me on the other side of the ball. I wasn’t trying to tackle anybody. I just want to run the ball.

“I questioned them about it, and they told me not to worry about it. They said when I got down there, if I didn’t make the top two or three on the depth chart at running back then I’d move to defense. I was still iffy about it.”

Howard began re-thinking his commitment to Auburn, and called his recruiter at Clemson, secondary coach Charlie Harbison. Harbison was emphatic in telling Howard that he would be a running back at Clemson, and Howard switched Tigers and made the move to Clemson, where he red-shirted a season ago.

This past Saturday, with starter Andre EllingtonAndre Ellington
RS Jr. Running Back
#23 5-10, 190
Moncks Corner, SC

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sidelined with a hamstring injury, Howard got his chance.

He made the most of it, carrying nine times for 86 yards and showing everyone in attendance – including the Auburn coaches – that running back is where he needs to be.

“A lot of people don’t understand the way I felt about this game,” Howard said. “I was full of emotions. It isn’t so much me playing with a chip on my shoulder, but I felt like I had to get a point across. I was just full of emotions. Everybody [from back home] is proud of me. My mom is a big Auburn fan but she loved it. I had a lot of family and friends here – coaches, Principals, former teachers – it was great.”

Howard didn’t see much playing time in the first two games, but said he wasn’t frustrated by his lack of touches.

“I felt if they needed me, they would call on me,” he said. “It’s not like I can just inch myself in there. I just had to wait. Coach Swinney told me that when I got the opportunity to just make the best of it. That opportunity came.”

And if the coaches call on him for big carries against Florida St. this weekend?

“Football is a game you have to play with confidence,” he said. “You should never doubt yourself.”

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