Howell Prepares For One More Run

April 10, 2007

By Joshua Mayers
The Daily

Dan Howell has muscles on top of muscles.

The senior linebacker's biceps and deltoids almost burst out of his polo shirt, but for now, he's had enough of just lifting and conditioning.

Howell worked his way into the starting lineup with a strong summer camp, and made eight starts in 10 games. The week after missing the Fresno State game due to the death of his father, Howell scored the final touchdown in the Huskies' 29-19 win over UCLA -- returning an interception all the way for the score.

He's ready to get back on the field for spring practice.

'It's such a long break before you get to hit somebody,' the 6-foot-1-inch, 225-pound Howell said. 'It's an opportunity to get back in the swing of things, get your mojo back. After a while, you get bored of just working out.'

As the Huskies begin their journey once again in search of a bowl game, they will need a big season from their even bigger linebacker.

Howell is one of few Washington linebackers with game experience coming into the 2007 season; he will need to become a leader of a defense that has lost many leaders.

But the added responsibility won't change his preparation.

'It'll be no different than every other season,' Howell said. 'Every year is work; every year is trying to get better.'

That diligent work ethic has done Howell well.

Just last season, the linebacker caught the eye of his coaches, outperforming two-year starter Scott White to land on top of the depth chart. Howell won the gold jersey, an award for excellence in practice, six days in a row for his superior performance.

'He's been working so hard ever since he's been here,' teammate Greyson Gunheim said. 'I think he surprised a lot of people by how much better he got.'

Defensive coordinator Kent Baer said Howell might be the Huskies' most improved player from the year before, in an interview with The Seattle Times.

So, it should be no surprise that Howell's passion to improve continues in this season, his final season at the UW.

For now, the Newhall, Calif. native is working on honing his awareness on the field to help develop that 'nasty instinct' of successful linebackers before him.

'[It's about] understanding what the offense is trying to do to you; understanding what your weaknesses are and how people are going to attack that,' Howell said. 'That way you know where they're going.'

That will mean more hours in the film room, of which the sociology major is no stranger. Howell also said he's been talking to offensive coaches to further his understanding of the other side of the ball.

He has an uncomplicated motivation.

'Just win, win, win, win, win, win,' Howell said. 'If we get out of the first six games with a winning record, we're sitting pretty nice when you look at the schedule.'

Home games of Ohio State, USC, Cal, Oregon and WSU will certainly be a test of strength for the Dawgs.

Good thing Howell looks as strong as ever.

'I think he blew up a little bit,' Gunheim says of his teammate's physique.

'Dan has always been stacked,' coach Tyrone Willingham said.

Howell played linebacker just one season before college. He was primarily used as a running back at Hart High School, but is now a veteran and a leader for Washington defense.

As the pressure for gridiron success mounts, much of the weight will be on Howell's shoulders to bring consistency and leadership.

But Husky fans need not worry: His shoulders are huge.

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