On any given day driving down 12th Street in Laurel, you’ll probably see 7-on-7 taking place on the Golden Torandoes’ practice field.
This normally comes in addition to a long, grueling practice that just ended.
But Laurel coach Todd Breland nor his assistants called these extra workouts. This is the handiwork of four-year varsity quarterback Keon Howard.
The Class 5A champions signal caller pulls up a private Facebook group page that only he and his teammates have access to. Then come the directions of where and when.
“Right now it’s every other day because we’re trying not to wear ourselves out,” Howard said. “I feel like with the team, if we’re slipping on our tools, I’ll pick that evening to have us come back and get it right.”
Howard put his leadership skills on display through a playoff run in each of his seasons at Laurel. He learned how to rally his group to a championship from those that came before him, including current Troy quarterback Dontreal Pruitt and Washington Redskins safety Akeem Davis.
In addition to wins, it’s helped him build the legacy he hopes to leave behind.
“I want to be known as Keon Howard, a great man of God and a great leader on and off the field, not just people saying Keon Howard was a great athlete and a great football player.”
Stat breakdown: Threw for 3,631 yards and 38 touchdowns and rushed 456 yards and ran in 12 scores as a junior.
Rankings: Three-star prospect by 247Sports, Rivals and Scout. Ranked No. 16 in The Clarion-Ledger’s Targeted 22.
What makes him a Dandy: The dual-threat quarterback is a dynamic playmaker and has gotten more explosive from year to year. Howard is a tremendous athlete who displays an ability to move in and out of the pocket with ease while showing awareness and poise throwing behind his offensive line. The 6-foot-2, 210-pounder has a rocket arm and excels making throws on the run and under pressure. His mechanics are solid, so at times he can get away with throwing off his back foot. With as many weapons as Laurel has at wide out, Howard’s production could appear to be a product of his receivers. But in crunch time or a 3rd and 8 situation, the quarterback is going to put his mobility on display, making reads during the play to either hit a receiver while on running down the sideline or carry the ball himself.
Where he’s going: Howard released a top 4 of Mississippi State, Louisville, Memphis and Minnesota two weeks ago. The reason being that these schools see him as a quarterback at the next level and will allow him to actively pursue a role in his current position. A year ago Howard said that staying in state wasn’t a huge priority. He’s changed his mind on that quite a bit. Expect a decision in a few months.
Best time to catch him this fall: Nov. 6 vs. Wayne County. The annual rivalry game against the War Eagles is a matchup that Howard says defines who owns the state. “If you win that game, you know you’re going to (the) state (championship),” he said. “If you lose that game, 9 out of 10 times you’re going home.”
What he said: “I always wanted to be a Dandy Dozen since I was coming up in the program at Laurel,” Howard said. “I heard people talking about it and when I found out what it was, I wanted to become one. It’s a big accomplishment for me and my family.”
Worth noting: Howard and Laurel WR/TE Octavious Cooley are the third set of teammates on the 2015 Dandy Dozen, joining Starkville’s A.J. Brown and Kobe Jones and Oxford’s D.K. Metcalf and Jack Abraham.
Contact Courtney Cronin at (601) 961-7091 or ccronin @ jackson.gannett.com . Follow @ CourtneyRCronin on Twitter.