ORLANDO, Fla.–West Virginia University’s Skyler Howard will play his final game as a Mountaineer on Wednesday evening in the Russell Athletic Bowl against the Miami Hurricanes.
The journey has been one full of ups and downs for the senior but at the end of the day he has amplified the toughness and heart of a true competitor.
“He is a competitor, WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. “It is important to him. He is 19-8 as a starting quarterback. There have been times where things haven’t gone his way. There have been times where I have been a little discouraged with him. But at the end of the day, it is about winning football games, and he understands how to do that. So, I am really proud of him. He has been a joy to coach. He is an overachiever. He has a chip on his shoulder. It has been very well documented about what he is and what he’s about.”
Howard has been through a lot during his career with the Mountaineers from injuries to bad games to fan criticism but through it all he never got discouraged and battled on.
“Through the ups and downs, preseason and obviously had a good run and had some bad things happen to us, overall, he stayed the course, “offensive coordinator Joe Wickline said. “He’s a leader and cares about the football team. He really cares about winning. It really bothers him when he doesn’t play well. He makes adjustments and moves on to the next thing. He’s matured and I think obviously has had his best year.”
Over the last three seasons, the 6-foot, 207-pound quarterback has taken the brunt of the negativity and turned it into success.
“He’s a guy who has done the deal, he’s had some peeps and doubters,” Wickline said. “He accepts that and he’s taken those on as challenges. He’s a tough guy, he’s gritty, gets it done and cares about the football team.”
During his tenure at WVU, Howard has a 56.9 pass completion percentage. This season he has thrown for 3,194 yards and 26 touchdowns.
And his versatility and success running the ball has been clutch for the Mountaineers.
But one of the things deeper than the success at WVU is the relationships that have been made. Those friendships will last Howard and his teammates for life.
“Being here for five years, you are with these guys for five years,” offensive lineman Tyler Orlosky. “Look, you are spending Christmas with each other. It means a lot, we are a family and to go out with a win with them would mean a lot.”
“He is one of my good buddies,” fullback Elijah Wellman said. “He is a gamer, he goes out there and plays. Tough kid, super tough kid and I have a close relationship with him and a good friendship. That is coming to an end now but there is always the next chapter in your life and that is what he is going to take on.”
Spending day in and day out with these guys builds a bond that cannot be broken.
“Ever since we have been here we have had the same goals of coming here, winning some ball games and using this experience to get successful in life,” Howard said. “We have talked about that since day one. We mesh on that level, as far as coming out here. We have the same motivations; he is a consistent guy that is going to work. He is a consistent receiver that will make the catch on third down, strong hands. I will remember him as my brother.”
With one final hurrah left, Howard has put his all into preparing for this game. He has put every ounce of blood, sweat and effort into getting that 11th win for the university that gave hime a shot when no one else would.
“This game means a lot to him,” Holgorsen said. “He has probably had his best practices leading into his game, because it means so much to him. He is going to go out there, and leave everything out there on the field. That makes it a joy to coach a kid like that. There’s no question.”
As the lights die down at Camping World Stadium, it will be the end of the road for the Fort Worth, Texas native in a Mountaineers’ uniform.
“It feels bittersweet,” he said. “A little bit of both. It feels like this is the end but then again I am just ready to enjoy it with these guys one last time.”
But as the saying goes “Once a Mountaineer, Always a Mountaineer.
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS