Sam Howell bringing stellar IQ, leadership
The ones who know Sam Howell best chuckle at his affinity for chicken and aversion to steak and fish.
“We always used to just get chicken wings,” childhood friend Anthony Marple told The Post with a laugh about Howell, the former North Carolina quarterback. “I remember when we were kids, my mom would have a youth group at our house, and he would never eat the burgers so we always had to get pizza or something like that whenever he came.”
“And that’s the thing you’ll get from Sam, right? He doesn’t change who he is for anybody. If everybody else is doing something, he does what he’s always done and doesn’t fold under pressure, he doesn’t try to be like everybody else, he stays in his own lane and that’s how he’s gotten to where he is.”
Quarterback coach specialist with QB Country and former Duke quarterback Anthony Boone has known him since Howell’s freshman year of high school. Howell attended his wedding.
“I was living with him this whole draft process out in Irvine, California,” Boone told The Post. “We were sharing like a two-bedroom apartment. I was trying to get him outside his box from him, but we go to these sushi spots and he’s gonna get him some general chicken, or some honey chicken — chicken is king for that guy. Whenever he decides to wed and have a wife and whatever, she’s gonna find it very easy to please him.”
Howell explains his chicken obsession this way: “I think it’s the healthiest meat you can eat.”
For Howell, apparently cluck is the residue of design, and now he is days from hearing his name called likely in the first or second round of the NFL draft.
“From a young age, ever since I started playing football I had a goal to be the best to ever do it,” Howell told the Post. “I wake up every day and try to do everything I can to get to that point.”
Howell and Marple first met at Sun Valley Elementary School in Monroe, NC Howell was in fourth grade and Marple in fifth.
“He was always the best athlete around,” Marple said. “Everybody was always scared to hit him. He was in fourth grade playing up with fifth graders and he was the biggest kid on the field, and playing safety and linebacker and starting quarterback throwing a fifth-grade football 60 yards down the field.”
Marple would go on to catch passes from his friend at Sun Valley High School. Howell asked him to catch passes at his Pro Day.
“We always talked about going to the NFL,” Marple said. “It’s crazy to see that it’s actually coming to life for him.”
One memorable high school play bonds them to this day.
Howell: “I started as a freshman on varsity and we were playing our crosstown rivals, it started raining at the end, we were down by like four points, and I rolled out and threw a touchdown at the end of the game, it was like a 40-yard touchdown.”
Marple: “My sophomore year we’re playing our rivals, Porter Ridge, and pour down raining, I remember him breaking away from a couple of guys in the pocket, hitting the sideline and then throwing a dart 40 yards down the sideline right into my chest. And that’s what won the game for us.”
The road to the NFL was not without an early pothole.
“My freshman year at North Carolina my third game, we started off 2-0, had like two fourth-quarter comebacks — the third game we were struggling a little bit and I got benched,” Howell said. “No one really knows that story but I did. That was a super-humbling time, and a time where I just had to grow up and mature. Luckily I was able to go back in later on that game and be successful, and I’ve played ever since then.”
Asked if it motivated him, Howell said: “I really don’t need anything else to fuel me. I feel like I’m driven as they eat. I think I just learned so much just about how just to never take anything for granted at any time. … Wherever you’re at in your life, it can always be taken away from you.”
His 2021 junior season failed to live up to his Heisman hype, but several of his Tar Heel teammates — including RB Michael Carter (Jets) and WR Dyami Brown (Commanders) — were gone.
“I think there were times where I tried to do too much,” Howell said.
But he never stopped trying, never stopped holding himself accountable to a high standard, never stopped commanding the huddle and earning the respect of his teammates.
“Every single time I’m in the huddle I want all my teammates to believe in me,” Howell said. “I want them to see a guy that they can believe in and they can trust in no matter what the situation is.”
Howell never stopped leading (92 TDs, 23 INTs, 63.8 completion percentage, 17 rushing TDs) in an Eli Manning way.
“People talk about how he shows no emotions and he’s like a robot,” Boone, the QB coach, said, “and it’s like, alright, when he’s on your team and he’s your guy, you’re like, ‘Damn I love this robot.’ … He’s one of those eat, sleep, breathe football guys.”
With a beautiful mind.
“Mentally he’s probably the smartest guy in the draft,” Boone said.
With a live, accurate arm.
“He throws a very beautiful NFL ball,” Boone said. “He had the highest spin rate of anybody at the Senior Bowl, so he throws a very tight spiral.”
Howell is 6-foot-1, 220 pounds. He’s only 21.
“No one,” Sam Howell said, “wants it more than I do.”
Don’t beef with that.