MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With their voluntary workouts suspended this holiday weekend, West Virginia football players scattered near and far for Fourth of July R&R.
It’s refreshing to get them away from football, coaches said. Nice to let college kids re-assimilate with fun-loving peers for a few days.
Thing is, quarterback Skyler Howard—even as he headed for the beach—sounded like the most reluctant tourist ever. Like he was missing football, summer football.
“I don’t want to get away from it. I’m ready to get back to work,” the Mountaineers’ senior said. “I want to be ready to go full-throttle for camp.”
Two years ago Howard entered his first summer in Morgantown looking like a wasted scholarship. He was fresh out of junior college and fresh off a WVU spring practice that made him look overmatched.
From then to now, of course, Howard has validated himself. While there remain several Big 12 quarterbacks you’d choose ahead of him, he owns a 9-6 record as a starter (with anything above .500 now cause for kudos at post-realignment WVU). Howard most recently torched Arizona State’s defense for 532 passing yards. A flammable secondary to be sure, but hey, someone had to strike the match.
Still prompted by the sting of early-career rejection, Howard isn’t assuming his senior season will bring another 3,000 yards and a bowl game. Not that those benchmarks would suffice anyway.
He’s still hungry. Kids like him have to be.
Remember, this was a player who spent May evenings sprinting up Law School Hill to prepare for the same runs he’d make with his teammates weeks later. Essentially, he was practicing for practice.
When a reporter suggested Howard conserve his energy during the offseason, the quarterback explained why he doesn’t do lazy.
“If you preserve yourself too much you’re just going to get beat up during the season,” said Howard, whose 158 carries were only three fewer than Rushel Shell in 2015.
“I think getting under the squat rack and doing 300 or 400 pounds, that’s going to prepare me and keep me healthier during the season than laying on my couch watching TV. I’d rather hurt now than hurt later.”
Howard isn’t the kind of blue-chip quarterback West Virginia fans dream about, but they should appreciate his drive, command and voracious preparation. And imagine the nightmare scenario the team could be facing without him.
Before taking off on his holiday break, Howard said, “I feel better at work.”
It appears to be his natural state.