UCONN FOOTBALL

Aug. 26: UConn Football, Expect Big Year From Howard

STORRS

Primarily a receiver at Miami Edison, Howard said he was only a part-time defender in high school. He was a neophyte at coverage. A seminal game, Edsall said, was last year against Louisville. The Cardinals tried to go after him with 6-9 Josh Chichester. Howard played bigger than his height. Ground was stood.

"I have learned everything about playing cornerback from Darius and Coach [Scott] Lakatos," Howard said. "I didn't know anything when I got here."

In many ways, Howard's story is about maturation beyond football. He is simultaneously a leader and a learner. He is mentoring Difton as Butler mentored him. Yet, as recently as this spring, Howard was held out of a practice, because he was skipping study hall.

"I am back on track," Howard said. "Coach and I are on good terms on and off the field now. I'm not getting back in that boat anymore."

"I had to try to get Jazz to understand how important academics are," Edsall said. "Coming from the culture he came from, this culture has been a change for him. When he first came here, he didn't trust a lot of people. We've had to gain his trust, and it's had to be hard at times on him to get him to understand that we don't want him just to be a football player. We want him to be a total person. I think he really understands that now. He understands that when we get on him it's not because we don't love him or like him."

Howard did not have an easy time growing up in Miami. His mom, Joangila, worked multiple jobs, made sacrifices to support Jazz, Keyondra and Jasmine, afflicted lifelong with meningitis. He is the first from his family to attend college.

"My mom was my mom and dad," Howard said. "My father was never around. I call her every day and before I go to sleep every night. And I'm very close to my sisters.

"When Jasmine was younger, the meningitis of her brain was real bad. She's just a little set back now. She's 13, but mom says it's like she's 11 or 12. She's going to be OK. Keyondra loves sports. She runs track. She starts at point guard in basketball. She made all-county. We're really hoping she follows me to the next level."

Just as he hopes to learn enough to follow Butler's footsteps to the NFL.

There is a time to lead and a time to learn. And right now, for Jazz Howard, the time is for both.

Inside: Offensive tackle Jimmy Bennett (above) out for season. Page B3

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