West Virginia quarterback leads Mountaineer offense despite doubters

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Quarterback Skyler Howard winds up for a pass during the Texas Tech-West Virginia game.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Nick Golden | Daily Athenaeum

Skyler Howard’s drive is inspired by his mother’s work ethic. 

Diedre Kelly worked multiple jobs while Howard grew up. She lost sleep so that both of them could have a better living.

“That fueled me,” said Howard, West Virginia’s starting quarterback. “My mom’s worked hard my entire life.”

Howard needed that energy, especially since his journey to Morgantown wasn’t easy.

Howard was a three-year letter at Brewer High School in Fort Worth. He passed for 4,171 yards and 32 touchdowns in his high school career. Senior year was his best year, as he threw for 1,377 yards 13 touchdowns and ran for 597 and eight touchdowns.

But Howard wasn’t recruited by any power-5 conference school. High school teammates suggested junior college football — but that wasn’t enough for Howard.

“That’s one thing I told the guys when they said juco after my senior year and I said, ‘Nah, I’m going to go Division I,’” Howard said. “I told them ‘I’m not going to do it, no matter how I get [to a Division I school].’”

Howard walked on at Stephen F. Austin. But he left after his freshman year and ended up at Riverside City College in California.

Even then, Howard didn’t start. He played behind the guy who started at Utah. Then one game, “coach looks at me at halftime and said ‘you’re in,’” Howard said.

Howard passed for 33 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards in his only year at Riverside. He led the Tigers to a 10-2 record, a conference championship and an appearance in the California State championship game.

“All the West Coast schools started calling in,” Howard said. “My first thought was New Mexico State. Utah was interested, Cal was interested.”

But he bolted to West Virginia because his eyes lit up when he saw the high-powered Mountaineers offense.

“Playing in the Big 12 was the biggest thing for me,” Howard said. “Just being able to go back home and play in Texas and play those teams that said I was too small all of my life.” 

Howard is still short for a quarterback – he’s listed at 6 feet tall – but he started two games in his first season at West Virginia. Head coach Dana Holgorsen named him the starting quarterbackthis season.

“He’s tired of hearing how he is not big enough, fast enough or good enough,” said Holgorsen. “He wakes up every day competing with himself and doing what he has to do to make all of that go away. He’s going to be focused on what he’s responsible for, and I’ve been happy with what he has done.”

Howard says it’s the haters that fuel him. The doubts. He won’t be complacent because he’s a starter.

“I’m going to keep working like I had nothing,” Howard said. “I’m going to keep working until God has a different plan for me.”

He’s refueling his tank.