NOTE: The following appeared in The Sporting News’ college football awards in the Dec. 16, 1991, issue.
CAREER CAPSULE: In only two seasons as a starter, Howard approached or surpassed virtually every record held by former Michigan receiver Anthony Carter. Howard, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound junior from Cleveland, had more than 100 all-purpose yards in 19 of the Wolverines’ past 22 games, including the last 12. He averaged 17.6 yards every time he touched the ball and set an NCAA record with touchdown receptions in 10 consecutive games. Howard combined with quarterback Elvis Grbac — the pair played on the same high school team at Cleveland St. Joseph — for another NCAA record with 31 TDs, most by any quarterback-receiver combination. Howard’s 19 TD receptions this season are Michigan and Big Ten single-season records and rank second in NCAA history behind the 22 scoring catches of Houston’s Manny Hazard in 1989. Howard’s career totals in TDs (37), receptions (133) and return yards (1,488) rank second in school history behind Carter, who started for four seasons.
MORE: Strike a Pose: Remembering Desmond Howard’s ‘Hello, Heisman!’ moment
FOCUS ON ’91: Simply, Howard was the most dramatic, dangerous and versatile offensive weapon in Michigan history. Despite frequent double-team coverage, he was a factor in every game. He made his mark early with four touchdowns in the opener against Boston College, including a 93-yard kickoff return. And he made his mark often, scoring at least two touchdowns in the first eight games. But Howard made the most indelible impression September 14 against Notre Dame, when he branded himself the Heisman favorite with a sprawling, fourth-down touchdown catch that sealed Michigan’s 24-14 victory. A month later, in a 45-28 victory over Michigan State, Howard caught a season-high eight passes for 101 yards and two TDs. For the season, he had 61 catches for 950 yards and scored 23 TDs. “He’s a better player than Rocket Ismail,” says Michigan State cornerback Alan Haller, comparing Howard to the 1990 Heisman runnerup from Notre Dame. “I played against both of them, and Howard can do more on the field than Rocket. He can catch, and he’s a heck of a blocker.”
A LOOK AHEAD: Howard has been at Michigan four years — he was redshirted in 1988 — and will graduate in May. Despite his steadfast assertions to the contrary, he is expected to turn pro and could be an early to middle first-round pick. “Right now, I definitely think I will be back.” Howard says. “I enjoy playing for Coach (Gary) Moeller. He has no qualms about throwing the ball. I like that.”
THE LAST WORD: Howard appears certain to become Michigan’s second Heisman winner (running back Tom Harmon won it in 1940). Still, Howard remains more humble than haughty. “Sure, every player dreams of the Heisman,” he says. “But I’m not materialistic. At the start of the season, I wrote down that my goal was to be the best player I could be. If I was materialistic, I would have written, ‘Win the Heisman.'”
Footnote: Howard was selected by Washington in the first round, fourth overall, in the 1992 NFL Draft.