The top-rated football prospect in the state of Minnesota traced his 1,000-plus mile trip to play his college football at LSU to a recent visit with Matt House, the school’s new defensive coordinator.
“Just talking ball really, I think the biggest thing is probably like it felt like being in a classroom and actually learning,” four-star Jaxon Howard of Minneapolis, Minnesota said Friday of his commitment on CBS Sports.com to the Tigers. “Taking all the knowledge I can and implementing it into my game and then going from that meeting to a little meeting with coach (LSU head coach Brian Kelly). He came in really realizing hey, ‘you can come in here, be great, but you have to work for it. A lot of other coaches will tell you that you can come here, and you’ll start on the spot’. There’s no guarantees, and you know you have to work for it.”
The four-star Howard, LSU’s highest rated commitment, read a prepared statement during his announcement, selecting LSU over Miami, Michigan and Minnesota. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder is regarded among the nation’s top tight ends, but the product of Robbinsdale Cooper High will play defense in college with a specialization in rushing the passer.
Howard’s rated as high as No. 96 overall nationally by both 247Sports and Rivals.com which also ranks him as the fifth-best edge rusher. He’s ranked as the No. 2 edge rusher by ESPN.com.
“So, he has outstanding athleticism,” said recruiting analyst Allen Trieu of 247Sports. “He has the pedigree, he’s got the size, and he’ll tell you himself, he’s still learning on the defensive side of the ball. I think once he concentrates fully on defense, he’s going to be a terror and so extremely versatile. Extremely smart, coachable, and I think all of those things are going to help him get to his considerable ceiling, a young man with a growing resume, he’ll add to it to add one of these four schools.”
Howard becomes the seventh commitment in an LSU Class of 2023 previously ranked as high as 50th by 247Sports. He’s also the first defensive line prospect that’s pledged to the Tigers, who jumped up seven spots in the team rankings according to 247, who last picked up a commitment from Lucas, Texas wide receiver Kyle Parker on June 23rd.
The addition of Howard may be the impetus LSU’s current recruiting class needs. Not only was House a major player in the recruiting process of Howard, but so was first year defensive line coach Jamar Cain.
“I think probably one of the biggest things, probably my relationships with the coaches,” Howard said of his reasons for choosing LSU. “Over the years I’ve had amazing relationship with Coach Cain, defensive line coach, and I knew getting back into there, I wanted to make sure it’s not going to be just him that I would be with the whole time. But also, the support staff and the rest of the position coaches as well and also the head coach.
“I had met coach Kelly. I want to say when I went to Notre Dame last summer (which) was an amazing experience just getting to know him. And now I think just about being able to play for him is amazing. I’m ready to go. I think just the biggest thing is probably the support staff as well. I know my parents will be sending me to college to become a better man and I think LSU is a perfect place.”
The month of June became one of reckoning for Howard who spent 3 ½ straight weeks on the road, taking official visits to Minnesota, Michigan, LSU and Miami. He also made an unofficial visit for LSU’s spring game April 23.
Howard played both tight end and defensive end at Robbinsdale Cooper where he was afforded the opportunity to play for his father Willie Howard, who played collegiately at Stanford and was a second-round selection in 2001 by the Minnesota Vikings.
“His nickname growing up was always ‘Mini-me.’” Willie Howard told MN Football Hub. “He’s a monster on defense. He flies to the ball and wants to make every single play and that comes naturally. He had a knack for getting to the ball. On offense, he releases, he blocks well, and his hands are unbelievable when the ball is thrown to him.”