By DAVE MORRISON
GLEN DANIEL – Liberty senior wide receiver/defensive back Braden Howell is nearly as adept at catching passes from the opposing quarterback as he is at catching passes from his own quarterback.
Maybe that’s because he started as the one throwing the passes.
Howell was a quarterback early in career at Liberty but he really wasn;t comfortable there.
“Freshman year I wasn’t expecting to even start and I got thrown in there at quarterback there,” Howell said, “Growing up all these years I’ve always been a receiver. My 10th and 11th grade year I I tried to talk (the coaching staff) into letting me go back to quarterback. I thought Isaac (Atkins) would do a better job at quarterback.”
Howell has taken the bull by the horns behind center, throwing for 884 yards and 11 touchdowns in just sox games.
These days Howell is happy at home on the edge, as a standout wide receiver. In this Covid shortened season he has 16 catches for 382 yards and six touchdowns. Last season he had 15 for 392 and five touchdowns.
At defensive back Howell had a terrific season in 2019 with nine interceptions, one of the top totals in the state. He has four this season.
Of course, teams that know aren’t exactly testing the safety.
Howell picked off pass-happy Clay County three times last year. in this year’s matchup He effectively took away a lot of the field as the Raiders shut out the Panthers
“That’s a big responsibility, I’m the safety and I’m taking away the center of the field,” Howell said. “That gives Shawn (Pennington) and Trey (Tabor) a chance to get a pick and Shawn’s doing a great job this year. I think he has seven (interceptions).”
He does, and Tabor has added two more.
“He’s good at safety,” junior teammate Ryan Simms said. “Any time we go to play at team that likes to pass he and Shawn are in there making sure their guy doesn’t get the ball.”
Is there an art to the interception?
“I just get lucky enough to have the ball come my way,” Howell said. “Im able to read the quarterbacks and I have the flexibility to go up and make a play on the ball.”
Coach Mark Workman knows there is a science to the interception.
“It’s putting the right guys in the right positions,” Workman said. “And their work ethic. I’ve got some ballhawks back there. I’ve got some guys up front (on the defensive line and depending on the defense, linebackers) that just relentlessly get after the quarterback and forces that quarterback into throwing bad balls and our guys are smart enough to go up and get it.”
The art of the catch, whether on offense or defense, comes via the knowledge he gained throwing passes.
“When I get on offense I look at the covers they’re (the opposition) in and where the open space is,” Howell said. “Me and Isaac (Atkins, the Raiders’ quarterback) have been playing ball together since we were five or six. I know if I can get open he can get me the ball.”
Howell has shown a propensity for making great catches, an ability he noticed he had early on. But he was needed at QB, his athletic ability giving him the tools he needed to do it at the time. So it was there he toiled.
Still he knew he would be happier at wide receiver.
His acrobatic catch against Scott rates high on his list of best catches.
“It was 10-6 late fourth quarter and Isaac threw me a deep ball right there in the corner of the end zone,” he nodded toward the area where he made the catch. “I caught it for a touchdown over a guy and that just gave us momentum right there. I think that’s what swung us on the way to win that game.”
Whether on offense or defense, you can guarantee that Braden Howell is adept at catching passes.