Howell offers long-snapping stability

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- When Adam Howell started at East Tennessee State, he spent his Saturday afternoons playing in the marching band.
   Now, the marching band plays for him.
   The former Elizabethton High standout has gone from band member to being the long snapper on the Buccaneer football team for the fourth year in a row.
   And according to ETSU head football coach Paul Hamilton, Howell is now a leader.
   "I'm extremely proud of Adam," Hamilton said. "He's such an outstanding representative of our football program on and off the field. I think Adam's a guy that is a leader on this football team."
   After spending his first fall at ETSU in the band, Howell decided he wanted to go out for the football team.
   It was a move that turned out to be a good one.
   "I came out the spring of my freshman year," Howell said. "I was playing on the offensive line and playing center. I was a little light to be playing center. I was also doing some long snaps. I was getting some work there. Josh Kerr was ahead of me, and I was able to learn a lot from him as far as snapping. Then because of my size, being a little small, they moved me just to do the long snaps.
   "It was great to be able to work under Josh Kerr and Jim Beverly, guys like that who are real strong in the snapping area. I was able to work under them, and kind of see how they do it. And Coach (Jeff) Bleamer has helped me out a lot with technique and getting a spiral on the ball. So from there, I just kept doing the snaps and have been able to do it. It's been a fun ride so far."
   Howell became the starting long snapper in 1999, and has not let the team down since.
   "That was actually my first year of eligibility," Howell said. "This will be the fourth year that I've started at long snapper. It's been a great ride. I've enjoyed it. I enjoy the position. People say there's a lot of pressure to it and stuff, but I just go out and do it. I enjoy it. It's a fun little task to run out there and snap a ball, then run down the field and whack somebody."
   Being the long snapper will not get you invited into too many post-game press conferences or weekly press luncheons, but it's a very important position.
   A good long snapper is responsible for making the special teams go. And so far, Howell has made Hamilton rest a little easier.
   "He helps me go to sleep at night, because I don't have to worry about our snaps on PAT's, field goals and punts," Hamilton said.
   Said Howell: I think it's pretty important. I don't want to be prideful about it or anything, but it's a position that's needed just like any other position on the team. You need offensive linemen to make holes for the running backs, and we need snappers to get the ball to the punter so that we can get good field position."
   Howell, who played on several conference championship teams at Elizabethton, did have some snapping experience when he played for Dave Rider.
   "In high school I was able to do the long snaps and the short snaps for the extra points," Howell said. "That helped out a lot as far as coming here. I was able to get a lot of good work on my short snaps. I played at Elizabethton and we were pretty decent when I was going through there. In all honesty we didn't have to punt a whole lot. That was one thing that when I got here that I had to really work on was my long snaps for the punts."
   Howell thinks it has been a privilege to play for both Rider and Hamilton. He says they are a little bit different, but he has a deep respect for both coaches.
   "I think the biggest difference is intensity," Howell said. "Dave Rider was intense. He was an intense coach, but I think playing at the collegiate level brings a different level of coaching at the same time. I think Coach Hamilton brings a higher level of intensity than Dave Rider, which I didn't know was possible.
   "But Coach Hamilton is a great coach. He's a good Godly man that's come in here and has brought a lot of morals, and a lot of religion and Christianity to this ball team. He's a man of integrity, and it's just great to be able to play under him. And Dave Rider was the same way."
   Howell is one of several players right now from Elizabethton that are shining on college teams. Jason Witten is an All-American at Tennessee, Shawn Witten is in the starting lineup at Virginia Tech, and Steven Trivette is turning heads at Carson Newman as a receiver.
   Howell is glad to be a part of Elizabethton's tradition. He credits the coaching staff for making it all possible.
   "I think a lot of that has to do with Dave Rider being our coach," Howell said. "He pushed us, and a lot of the other coaches that went through there, Hack Hyder and Roger Childers and a bunch of those guys, they pushed us to our full potential. They made us the players that we are. I'm thankful for that.
   "Elizabethton does have a lot tradition for bringing out some pretty good players. Hopefully, that will continue. To see people like Jason and Shawn come out in back-to-back years, and Steven Trivette who can run like a deer. It's unbelievable to see some of the athletes that have come out of there the past few years."
   This will be Howell's last year of football, and then it's off into the real world.
   Howell seems very prepared.
   "I'm going to graduate in December," Howell said. "After that I'm planning on taking the spring semester off. I'll probably get a job and get some money for school later. Then I'm planning on going to seminary. From there I don't know. It's kind of whatever God decides. I'm open to whatever. What I'm looking at now is possibly teaching at the seminary level. But the next plans after graduation will be seminary."
   Once he graduates, Howell's character and leadership will certainly be missed by Hamilton.
   "I think we're talking about a guy that represents Elizabethton and their football program to the highest degree," Hamilton said. "I am certainly proud to be a part of Adam Howell."