Running back Jordan Howard was taken with the No. 150 pick by the Chicago Bears in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Having been responsible for much of the rushing workload during his time in college, Howard was ready to take his talents to the next level and is expected to be a productive member of the Bears' offense.
Chicago will look for Howard to help fill the void left by the departure of long-time starter, Matt Forte. Along with 2015 fourth-round pick Jeremy Langford and 2014 fourth-round pick Ka'Deem Carey, the Bears have a stable of young running backs to work with after cutting ties with Forte, who eventually landed with the New York Jets.
Howard was one of the players who fell out of UAB disbanding their football program in 2014, forcing him to transfer to Indiana University to finish his collegiate career. His final season in Birmingham was the best of his career, rushing for over 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns on 306 attempts. Despite the distraction that was a failing program, the running back stayed focused on the future and accomplishing his dream of playing in the NFL.
"It's been pretty much a whirlwind. I had to stay focused and stay positive through everything and know that God has a plan for everything," Howard said. He also commented on UAB re-starting the football program: "I think it's very exciting that they're giving more people the opportunity to play football at the Division I level, and I think it's the right thing to do."
UAB Running Back Jordan Howard goes over the top to score against against Western Kentucky— Selwynn Howard (@LastWordnSports) October 5, 2014
https://t.co/LwHyndk0DK via @vineapp
Howard's time in the Big Ten resulted in yet another 1,000-plus yard season and nine touchdowns for IU. He was sidelined throughout the season, first with an ankle injury and then a lingering knee issue. He tried to play through it, but eventually his knee gave way and he had a procedure on his meniscus over Thanksgiving. Howard was quick to note at the combine that he's "100 percent now" and everything checked out well.
Former UAB RB Jordan Howard with 200 yards rushing for his new team Indiana #Hoosiers vs Michigan #GoBlue https://t.co/yJVc5ErayX— InTheCore (@InTheCore1) November 15, 2015
Howard knows that a running back's career is shorter than other at positions and chose to declare for the draft with one year of eligibility left. His awareness of the number of carries already on his body is indicative of his concern for wear and tear, which he spoke about at the NFL Combine.
"It's not something I pay attention to in a game, how many carries. I take as many carries as I can in a game. But a running back, we know our life span isn't that long and 800 carries, that's a lot just for college," Howard said.
It might be a lot in college, but it's the kind of workload NFL teams will expect from their lead rusher. While his skills at receiving weren't often utilized at IU, Howard does consider himself a three-down back who can both catch passes and protect as needed.
Howard's injury history could dictate the duration of his career, but if his production is any indication, the Bears will be happy they added some depth at running back.