Back in September, I visited with Charlotte Catholic running back Milan Howard, who was just getting started on what’s become a special season.
His goal was to get his team to a state championship game to make up for something that happened in Greensboro at the end of his junior year. With Howard having one of the best offensive seasons in school history, I figured now would be a good time to revisit the story. I’ve updated it a little.
Catholic senior running back fulfilling his promise
Charlotte Catholic senior running back Milan Howard said he’s having the kind of football season he hoped to have.
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Howard has been bothered for nearly a year by a play in Catholic’s 2016 state 4A semifinal loss to Greensboro Dudley.
Catholic trailed 13-10 and was driving with 6 minutes left. Howard fumbled and Dudley’s Awstyn Williams returned it 84 yards for the final score in Dudley’s 21-10 win.
Catholic’s coaches and fans felt Howard’s knee touched the ground before the ball came out, which meant the Cougars would have kept the ball. One game official pointed to the spot where the ball appeared down. He was overruled.
"Everybody knew I was down," said Howard, who is 5-foot-11 and 182 pounds. "I didn’t enjoy that feeling of losing and I dedicated myself 100 percent and decided I was going to become faster, stronger, smart and be able to do whatever I needed to do to make my team win."
In a season in which running backs seem to have returned to prominence throughout the Observer’s coverage area, Howard’s had a monster year. Named the Southern Carolinas offensive player of the year Wednesday, Howard has rushed 169 times for 1,848 yards and 26 touchdowns. He’s caught 27 passes for 446 yards and five scores.
He’d led the Cougars (15-0) to the ninth state championship in school history and the eighth state final since 2004. Catholic will face Havelock (14-1) in the N.C. 3A final Saturday at Duke.
At a scouting camp at Hough High this season, Howard ran an electronic 4.4-second 40-yard dash -- elite speed for a college recruit -- and has offers from schools like Charlotte, Chattanooga, Eastern Kentucky, East Tennessee State, Elon, Richmond and the Citadel. He’s drawn interest from East Carolina and North Carolina.
Howard insists he’s not nearly done this season.
"I’ve been training for this since the Dudley game ended," he said. "The result against Dudley wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to ensure I win a (3A state championship) ring this year."
On Saturday, he’ll get his chance.
Top single-season Charlotte Catholic rushing performances
1. Elijah Hood, Charlotte Catholic, 3,690 (2013)
2. Elijah Hood, Charlotte Catholic, 3,309 (2012)
3. Ben Herlocker, Charlotte Catholic, 2,577 (2006)
4. Jaret Anderson, Charlotte Catholic, 2,075 (2015)
5. Jaret Anderson, Charlotte Catholic, 2,067 (2014)
6. Milan Howard, Charlotte Catholic, 1,848 (2017)*
7. Vee Hood, Charlotte Catholic, 1,832 (1989)
*-Howard has one game remaining