Always on the move
It’s been a crazy, unpredictable football season for Washington’s Tyler Howard. He’s played offense, moved to defense and moved back to offense for the Demons this fall.
“It’s been a yo-yo for him,” Washington head coach Randy Schrader said. “It really has.”
Howard, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound senior, played defensive end on the junior varsity squad last season, but was urged in the preseason to try out for the team’s center position.
“We had some troubles at that position, and my offensive line coach, Coach [Don] Miksch, told me to try out at center,” Howard said. “After a couple of days, he chose me as center, and I felt pretty proud of that.”
But the transition from defense to offense wasn’t quite that easy. After having no problems in Washington’s season-opening win over Mid-Prairie, Howard suddenly couldn’t snap the ball four yards back to quarterback Daryn Sebelius in the Demons’ second game of the season at Pella.
“I had a really long week of practice, and I wasn’t getting my snaps down,” Howard said. “I was just having a lot of trouble, and it just transitioned into the game. I had three bad snaps right away, and they pulled me out.”
Washington struggled with snapping the football in that game, and went through three centers in the 16-10 overtime loss.
“Obviously, and I think a lot of people miss this, the most important position on an offensive football team is the center,” Schrader said. “If you don’t get a center-quarterback exchange, whether you’re under center or in the shotgun or in the pistol or whatever it is, you’re not going to do anything.”
The Demons posted the job for starting center — just as a company would post a job opening — over the next week. But Howard improved and was able to hold onto his starting spot.
“He just got better,” Schrader said.
Schrader said that the Howard’s problems snapping the ball were mostly mental.
“He just tried to do too many different things,” Schrader said. “He was in a situation where everybody was trying to correct something. I think it’s just like if you were trying to hit a golf ball. Your elbow’s too high. Your wrist’s too far back. Move your left foot. It was kind of a Tin Cup type of deal. Turn your hat sideways, take all of your change and put it in your left pocket, and now hit the ball. Just forget about what you’re doing and just go.”
“They had me trying some different snapping techniques, and that really helped out,” Howard said. “They were really patient with me. They really worked with me, and we finally got it down, I think.”
But two weeks later Howard missed a few practices with illness and lost his job as starting center to sophomore Kyle Collier. When Howard came back, he found himself back on defense, filling in for injured defensive end Kyle Roder.
“It was different, but I liked it,” Howard said. “I like playing defense. But I had been working so hard on center that it felt like forever since I’d tried defensive end or playing defense at all. It was different.”
Howard has made 16 tackles this season, including two sacks and a forced fumble on Homecoming. But when Roder returned from injury, Howard found himself back on offense, starting at center.
“They’ve moved me around quite a bit, but whatever I have to do to help out and contribute, that’s what I’ll do,” Howard said.
Now Howard, the son of Jamie Howard and Heather Schenk, seems to have settled into his role as the team’s snapper.
“We haven’t had any bad snaps for a while,” Schrader said.
Schrader said Howard has dealt with adversity well, and has gotten better because of it.
“There’s a kid who we worked hard to try to get him to be a center, and he came in and had some snap troubles and obviously in the Pella game it really went sideways for him. But to his credit, he hung in there and kept working at it and kept working at it. He’s worked himself into a situation where he has become a pretty good football player here at Washington.”