Friends and family of the late Coach Howard gathered at Raider Stadium last Monday to celebrate the life of a man who preached love and respect to those around him, leaving a lasting impact on the Southern Oregon University Football program.
“We had a lot of guys that didn’t come from a good family. Coach Howard brought them to us and gave them a family,” said Colin Davis, a senior for the Raiders. He remembered Howard as an empathetic coach and irreplaceable leader. “The biggest thing he preached was love. Saying ‘I love you’ to somebody and actually meaning it doesn’t happen very often,” said Davis. “You built this love and this trust with other guys because you’ve done all these things together, and I think that was the most unique thing he instilled in me.”
During the memorial service past players spoke of the life values that Howard had instilled in them. “When you play for something bigger than yourself, you can achieve way more,” said former pro-football player Tim Tebow in reference to Howard’s coaching style. Tebow played for Howard at the high school level and continued on to play three seasons in the NFL.
Howard’s emphasis on the importance of family and the effect it had on his players did not go unnoticed. According to Ken Fasnacht, the team’s quarterback coach, the former head coach helped his players fortify “a bond that ended up lasting forever […] not because of X’s and O’s, but because of the man that they had played for.”
According to members of the team a common phrase that players would hear from their coach was Howard’s acronym for “family,” or as they understand it “Forget About Me I Love You.”
Scott Robison is only a freshman this year, but after only knowing Howard for these past six months Robinson stated that “he’s touched me more than anyone else.” Robison said that “[Howard] was not just a coach, but a mentor. He wanted us to be men of character, strength and honor.”
Howard had been going into his sixth season with the school after taking over the football program in February of 2011. Prior to Howard’s instatement, the Raiders had averaged three wins in the previous eight seasons. By 2014 Howard brought the team to its first NAIA title and was named the Rawlings NAIA Coach of the Year.
As a member of the 2014 National Championship team, Davis spoke of the mentality his coach had as the head of a low budget program with dreams of a championship. “He’d say ‘make the big time where you’re at,’” recalled Davis. “We’re not the fanciest program. Even if this isn’t the University of Oregon or a D1 program, if you treat it like one it will become one,” he said.
Howard’s passing was a blow to his family and loved ones as well as the entire football program. Robinson insisted that the team is bonding in the wake of this tragedy. “We’re all gonna make it work for him,” he said.
It was announced Tuesday that the nationwide search for a new head coach had begun in the hopes that the position will be filled in time for Spring practices beginning in April.