Diamond in the Rough: Justin Howard

Justin Howard is a class of 2023 offensive lineman out of De La Salle High School in New Orleans, Louisiana. Standing at 6’3″ and weighing 290 pounds with a 3.0 GPA, the senior can bench 315 pounds, squat 550 pounds, and run 40 yards in 4.9 seconds. Howard is not only a staple on that offensive line since he arrived, but is a leader through and through. Recently, I had the pleasant ability to speak with Howard.

Q: Why do you play the game?
“Because it pushes me to be a better man and teaches me all the main faces of life that you need: being there for your family, accountability, always being on time, and being [a leader.] It takes hard work, makes you stay dedicated, and keeps you away from trouble.”

Q: Where do you see football going in your life?
“My dream is to go to the NFL, and I see [myself playing] football going to the NFL.”

Q: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned playing football?
“If you don’t put in the work, you’ll never get the outcome. I wasn’t as electric at first as the other kids, cause they played years before me. So I went back to the drawing board and started working out more, and as I kept making my workouts harder, it made me a better player.”

Q: What does football mean to you?
“It means everything to me. It’s been a part of my life ever since I was a little kid. I feel like it’s the main thing that I do during my daily life. I work with football every day, 365 days a year, 24/7. Football has always been there for me to feel free and be the person I think I am.”

Q: What challenges have you overcome so far?
“I had two patella injuries and both my kneecaps had popped out. I was stressed out about it because over the years of my high school career, it was always a stressful thing. I was so blessed to not have to get any surgeries where I’d have to rehab a lot, and when I didn’t know what was going on, it was a stressful time for me. I think it was just another thing that God was sending me, to just work hard at, to keep working, and stay focused.”

Q: Besides God, who or what else motivated you to get past those two patella injuries?
“My mother and my father [motivated me.] Not too many African Americans get to have two parents in their household, especially together. They work so well together, and the hard work they put out always motivates me.”

Q: How do you balance sports with your other responsibilities?
“I think I balance it pretty well. Sports have always been a big deal for me, but so is my education. The people around me make sure that I do a good job, and I think I do a good job at that [because of them].”

Q: Do you have a favorite football memory?
“Winning my semi-final game before the championship by a field goal in 2019. It was just a crazy moment, to know that I was going to play for a state championship my freshman year as a starter. I felt like it was one of those times where you realize that you want to do something like this for the rest of your life. This is something I want in my future.”

Q: How do you stay trained and in football-shape during the offseason?
“I have a very busy schedule with training. I usually train from almost Monday to Sunday most weeks. I go to a trainer, and he helps me with my speed and agility, having fast feet for a lineman, all of that. Usually on my off days when I don’t have school during the offseason, I have about three workouts a day with Saturday or Sunday as a recovery day.”

Q: How are you looking to improve your game?
“I’m looking to improve by just keep doing what I’m doing. I feel like the numbers in the weight room are always going up. I feel like I’m always getting better at [strength and speed] so I think I just need to do a little extra. Do a bit extra than what the other person is doing who’s trying to get the same goal as me, and I think I do a good job at that already. I just need to keep training and doing what I’m doing.”

Q: On the other side, what is the strongest aspect of your game?

“I’d say my speed and agility. I’d say just those two because I’m very explosive for an offensive lineman. I think I’m also pretty strong too. I think being explosive and strong goes hand-in-hand, but both speed and strength goes into the biggest parts of my game.”

Q: What are some goals you’ve set for yourself?

“The goal I’ve set for myself was to win the state championship with my team. We’ve been there twice and we’ve lost twice, so I know the atmosphere. We’re undefeated right now so I feel like we have a pretty good chance this year, but it’s always to win the state championship with my family.”

Q: Do you try to model your game after any players, pro or collegiate?
“I really like Trent Williams’s game, and Trai Turner. Those two players, they’re just phenomenal dudes. I feel my game translates with them is because of the way they move. They’re so fast and so explosive, I feel like a younger them working through high school, and they do everything I see myself doing.”

Q: Do you consider football to be more physically challenging, mentally challenging, or both?
“A little bit of both. Football is a tough mental game… because on the days you aren’t feeling it, you just have to push through. You have to do all those reps and get through those workouts. You have to train your body to be ready at all times because you don’t know when anything could happen, especially keeping up with injuries and things like that. Physically, you’re either dominant or not.”

Q: What is something you want your coaches to know about you, past, present, or future?
“They should know that they’re going to get someone who’s going to work their butt off and who wants a chance at greatness. [They’ll also get] someone who’s gonna be a team leader when he walks through that door. From Freshman year to when he leaves, he is going to be a team leader.”

You can view his highlights here.

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