"I haven't really started narrowing down my list of schools, because I haven't received all of my offers yet," he said. "But I'll be setting up my visits soon, and NC State will definitely get a visit. They've got a strong program, and they're an exciting team to watch."
While he has never seen the campus, Howard knows a great deal about the NC State program, thanks to some solid recruiting by Wolfpack assistant coach Chris Demarest and current senior defensive tackle Alan Holloway, who also attended Matawan Regional and still has family and friends in the area. Holloway remains good friends with Howard, and the two of them often discuss Carl's future plans.
"I keep in touch with Alan off and on, and every time he comes home," Carl admits. "We're really close. He's actually put a good word out for me, too."
According to Matawan head coach Joe Martucci, Howard has received 14-15 offers from top Division I programs, with NC State, Rutgers, Syracuse, Clemson, Virginia and Maryland among those doing the best job in the recruiting process. Martucci added that most recruiters have been significantly impressed with Howard's athletic ability and how he has progressed just over the last year.
"I think being 6-5, 295 pounds with the ability to run and the agility of a small man, I think his future is definitely ahead of him," he said of his prized lineman. "He's worked very hard in the off-season. He's worked very hard in the pre-season and conditioning. You can see a definite maturity level in him that wasn't there last year or the year before. As he's gotten older, he's grown more comfortable and confident with his size and having the ability to do what he can do on the field."
As starting defensive tackle last year, Howard registered 50 tackles, five sacks and six tackles for a loss. But Martucci suggests that Carl is primed to have an even better campaign this year because of all the improvements he's made on the field and in the weight room.
"With the core exercises that he's been working on to help him gain more strength in the middle part of his body, he's able to do some more things like staying lower, which he really hasn't been doing up until now," he says. "Being his size in high school is kind of a disadvantage sometimes, because he's playing against some kids that are 6-1, 5-11, 5-10, and to stay low and get underneath them is pretty tough for a big kid. So he's making adjustments and doing things we're asking him to do. Right now, he's a leader for us and he's working very hard."
Howard also boasts unusual speed for his size, running a 4.8 second-40. In fact, the senior has surprised everyone but himself with his quickness and agility. To him, registering such blistering speeds has always been "no big deal."
"Ever since I was younger, I've been racing against all the fast, little guys," he said. "I didn't start playing organized football until my freshman year. I was so used to playing in the street, playing wide receiver, playing every position on the field, and I think that's how I got my athletic ability. So when I got to high school and they had me run my 40 time, 4.8 was nothing."
In terms of preparing for the next level, Carl has also received a great deal of advice from his father, Carl Howard Jr., who played football at Rutgers and was a defensive back in the NFL from 1985-92. Mostly, Carl Jr. has helped to keep his son's feet on the ground and his head on the level.
"He teaches me what colleges want," said the younger Howard. "You could be an All-American in high school, and then be a ‘no-name' in college really quick. He just taught me how to stay hungry and to never read into the publicity. It's good for your confidence to know that you're a good athlete, but don't settle for that."
To Carl, however, the most important factor in his collegiate decision likely will be academics. He plans to major in business and has expressed interest in schools that have a particularly strong business program. "After that," he said, "the next biggest factor would probably be the coaching staff and my relationship with the coaches."
With the already strong relationships with Holloway and Coach Demarest, and a Wolfpack offer firmly in hand, Howard is definitely one to watch over the next several weeks.