Monday, June 29, 2015


Kevin Howell burns defensive backs at wide receiver and locks down wide receivers at cornerback for Thousand Oaks High School. Howell, Class of 2016, holds six scholarship offers (photo by Lorenzo J. Reyna). 
Kevin Howell, Thousand Oaks High School’s top wide receiver/defensive back, received this assist from his star quarterback Max Gilliam during the spring: a rise in his own recruiting period. 

The day college football programs started to offer Gilliam scholarships was the day the Lancer quarterback opened a door for Howell to receive his own collegiate interest. Howell, who led the Lancers with 72 catches, 932 yards and 11 touchdowns on offense and five interceptions on defense, is currently sitting on six offers. His highly-coveted teammate Gilliam also holds six scholarships and committed to Cal in April 2015.

“Ever since Max got offered, a lot of other guys (at Thousand Oaks) have gotten interest. It definitely helped me out too because a lot of colleges started to look at who Max was throwing the ball to,” Howell said.

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Class of 2016 prospect holds pledges from Nevada, Navy, New Mexico, Montana, Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington. As of now, he doesn’t have any school on his short list or has any plans to announce his commitment.

“Not yet,” Howell said. “I’m just trying to absorb it all and get ready for the season.”

Howell led the Lancers in three receiving categories (catches, yards, touchdowns) and was tops in interceptions with five last season (photo contributed). 

While he doubles as a playmaking receiver and ball snatching defensive back, Howell hopes to continue his career in the secondary. Recently, Howell showed his defensive back skills in front of the Cal Golden Bear coaching staff during a satellite camp held on June 28 at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village.

Howell said that most college coaches are trying to recruit him to play in their defensive backfield.

“The only school that’s offered me as an athlete is Northern Arizona. Everyone else is recruiting me as a defensive back, which is fine. I like being by myself and locking up receivers,” Howell said.

One of his favorite NFL players is Arizona Cardinals star cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, who Howell said “He’s a wild player. He’s good, he’s fast and he gets to the ball.”

The first 40 seconds of Howell’s highlight reel reveals a hard-hitting enforcer and ball hawk. Howell – who plays both free safety and cornerback – zeroes in on a wide receiver, sinks his shoulder and collides with his opponent like a truck slamming into a car. When he plays off of a receiver by seven yards, Howell stays in his zone, keeps his focus on where the ball is going, then snatches the interception and becomes a six-point threat with the ball in his hand.

Howell, though, is Gilliam’s top weapon in the aerial game. Howell has lit up cornerbacks as a deep threat and red zone option. He uses a plant-and-go that gets cornerbacks turning themselves and stumbling back while Howell dashes to the end zone. Inside the opposing 20-yard line, Howell eludes press coverages, turns for the ball and adjusts his body to haul in the touchdown grab.

The Howell-Gilliam collaboration helped contribute to an average of 35.9 points per game for the Lancers’ offense. Howell said he believes that this year’s Lancers have added muscle for the 2015-16 campaign.

“We’re a lot stronger as a team because our weight lifting coach pushes us a lot harder,” Howell said.  “We’ve been getting a lot better.”

There’s no rest for Howell even though his team has to take a break due to the CIF summer dead period, which officially went into effect on June 28 and ends July 19. Howell plans to use that time to visit the schools that have him on its radar.

With the chemistry he has with Gilliam, plus the recruiting aid from his teammate and future Cal Golden Bear, would Howell consider joining his quarterback at Berkeley if a scholarship comes from the PAC-12 University?

“I don’t know. I have to think about that one. I have to think that one over with my family and coaches,” Howell said, smiling. 

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