Skyler Howard’s journey to become West Virginia’s starting quarterback would seem to indicate that he is mentally tough enough to handle the rigors of a Big 12 schedule and the expectations of a program with a history of developing prolific quarterbacks.
The Fort Worth native was not heavily recruited out of White Settlement Brewer, but he refused to take no for an answer.
He believed in himself and was committed to his dream and the work it would take to become an FBS quarterback.
After a stint at Stephen F. Austin, then a detour to junior college in California, Howard has scraped and clawed his way to his dream job. He’ll be under center when the Mountaineers open the season Saturday at home against Georgia Southern.
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“There’s something I’ve taken from every step of the journey,” Howard said. “It made me the person I am today. The people I’ve met, the experiences ... I look back at it and it all lines up.
“I couldn’t be happier. I wouldn’t change anything because I’m here today and it’s what I’ve hoped for.”
Perhaps only Howard believed he could do this.
After graduating high school in 2012, he enrolled at Stephen F. Austin and intended to walk on. It didn’t work out, so he packed his bags and transferred to Riverside (Calif.) City College.
There, he showed something, leading Riverside to a 10-2 record and an appearance in the California JUCO state title game. He threw for 3,151 yards and connected on almost 68 percent of his passes.
He started last season as West Virginia’s scout-team quarterback and worked his way into position to be the guy if Clint Trickett got hurt — which he did.
Kids gravitate toward him. He’s a vocal leader and he’s the hardest worker on our team. I like where he’s at.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen
With West Virginia down 20-3 in the middle of the third quarter against Kansas State, Howard, having “prepared like I was the starter all year,” looked anything but jittery. He led two long scoring drives, finishing each one with a touchdown pass.
Howard started the final regular-season game and the Liberty Bowl against Texas A&M.
“Kids gravitate toward him,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He’s a vocal leader and he’s the hardest worker on our team. I like where he’s at.”
Holgorsen also said he plans to use Howard more in the run game this season.
Howard, the heir to Trickett and NFL quarterback Geno Smith, would also seem to be the right guy to take on those who don’t believe in the Mountaineers this season.
West Virginia was picked by Big 12 coaches to finish in the lower half of the conference. Howard has spent the past two years disproving the naysayers.
TCU was one of the programs — there were many — that didn’t give Howard much, if any, recruiting attention out of high school. He looks forward to traveling to Fort Worth for a personal homecoming Oct. 29 against TCU.
“I don’t fault them for that or anything of that nature,” Howard said. “I’m not going to go in there hot-headed and try to prove everybody wrong.
“It’s one of my goals to prove people wrong that I couldn’t do this, but I’m just looking forward to going in there and playing ball.”
Last year’s record: 7-6
Bowl result: Lost to Texas A&M 45-37 in the Liberty Bowl
Opener: Saturday vs. Georgia Southern
Players to watch: QB Skyler Howard, WR Jordan Thompson, RB Rushel Shell, RB Wendell Smallwood, DT Noble Nwachukwu, S Karl Joseph, CB Daryl Worley
Tarrant tie: Skyler Howard, QB (White Settlement Brewer)
Big 12 countdown
The Star-Telegram spotlighted each team leading up to TCU’s season opener at Minnesota on Thursday night.
Aug. 24: TCU
Aug. 25: Texas Tech
Aug. 26: Oklahoma
Aug. 27: Oklahoma State
Aug. 28: Kansas
Aug. 29: Kansas State
Aug. 30: Texas
Aug. 31: Baylor
Sept. 1: Iowa State
Wednesday: West Virginia