To say that the New York Giants need an upgrade at tight end is nothing new to fans of the game. It seems the club has been searching for a pass catching TE who can actually block as well. O.J. Howard is a player with Jeremy Shockey’s hands, Howard Cross’ blocking and Mark Bavaro’s tenacity, so the Giants should scoop him up – even with the 23rd pick in the first round. He may weigh 260 pounds but is very lean and looks more like a basketball forward then an NFL tight end.
(6-foot-6, 260) Alabama, Projected round: 1
Q: What are some of your playing assets?
Howard: I have great speed for my size, and my versatility is also a plus. I seem to have a burst that I can separate from defenders and make plays on the field.
Q: Which is more of a strength – receiving or blocking?
Howard: I can do both and think that is what makes me stand out. It seems it is hard to find a tight end who can do both and is good at either. But I keep working on both and with the coaches I have this week I am hoping they can show me something to help me improve either. But if you play for Alabama you come out a blocker. Coach Saban doesn’t have it any other way.
Q: How will working with an NFL coaching staff like the Browns help you?
Howard: It is great competition this week because not only do you have other TEs that are good players, but you get to go against some of the best defensive athletes in the country competing against you all week. Hopefully, the scouts will see my game against the better guys with great talent and that I can set me apart.
Q: There must be over 700 scouts and NFL coaches here this week watching every practice. What is the pressure like knowing there are so many watchful eyes?
Howard: I played in a lot of big games at Alabama and in those you would have 80,000 or more watchful eyes. The pressure has always been on me. I love the moment and this week it is a big opportunity for me to show that I not only belong, but deserve to be a starting tight end.
Q: Can you tell us something about your game?
Howard: That I am a talented guy who gives everything I got on the field. I will stick my nose into the run and make something happen no matter the size of the guy in front of me.
Q: In practices you seem to catch everything that comes your way. Have you always been like that?
Howard: I have good hands, and I am thankful for that. But to be good in anything you have to work at it. Believe me, when you enter a big college program they are going to make you good at something and just happy it was catching footballs.
Q: You are ranked as the number one tight end in next year’s draft. What are your thoughts?
Howard: If that is true I have worked really hard to get where I am as far as my playing abilities. Being at a program like Alabama is not easy, and they push you very hard to become a successful player as well as a successful person. I did not get here by myself. I also want to be on the field for most plays and not have to substitute on certain downs. Just leave me on the field. I am good on punt teams, too, so for some it may be three and out but for me I want to still be on the field.
Q: What are your personal goals for the upcoming season?
Howard: To help my new team and contribute by being a play-maker. I want to be the go-to guy and create moments.
Q: Who are some of your favorite players growing up?
Howard: Tony Gonzalez. And also Jason Witten. Those are two guys I really like to watch. They both are very consistent and you don’t see them crying about wanting a flag thrown. The linebacker is always going to have his hands all on you so that shouldn’t be anything new. Just fight him off and catch the ball and you won’t have to worry about flags.
Q: What are some of your favorite foods?
Howard: I love Conecuh sausage. I grew up in Prattville, Alabama and if you grew up in the south you always cooked with Conecuh. I could eat some right now.
Q: After your playing career is over, what do you see yourself doing?
Howard: Being a sports broadcaster. Maybe have my own sports talk show and be the host. That is what my major is in.
Barry Shuck is at the Senior Bowl this week gathering interviews and providing live coverage for Giants fans.