With the start of the 2019 Louisiana high school football season less than three months away, class of 2020 high school prospects are handling their recruitment in different ways.
Some will choose to wait until after the season to commit to a school. Some may commit during the season after visiting a school. Others will choose to commit before the season starts to get it out of the way and focus on winning football games in the fall.
St. Thomas More (Lafayette) tight end Luke Howard, who will be a senior this fall, chose the latter of the three options, as he committed to McNeese on June 7 via his Twitter account. Howard is also the Cowboys' first commit for the class of 2020.
Howard – who is listed at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds – also lists offers from Nicholls, Northwestern State, Southern, Southeastern Louisiana, Holy Cross, and Dartmouth. He originally heard from McNeese around a year ago under the old Cowboys coaching staff. He continued to receive contact even after the new staff came in January.
Over the spring, Howard and his family were headed to check out the University of Houston when they decided to stop in Lake Charles and check out McNeese. It worked out that the coaching staff, led by tight ends coach Derek Shay, still rated Howard highly and chose to give him a scholarship offer. He tweeted that he received the offer on April 5.
After committing, Howard says that McNeese head coach Sterlin Gilbert told him to turn into a recruiter for the Cowboys. As the first prospect in the 2020 class to commit, he will have some eyes on him and notoriety.
"I'm definitely going to do that throughout this (process)," Howard said. "Try to reach out to guys."
Some of the factors that Howard listed that got him to commit to McNeese were the facilities, family atmosphere that he felt when he came over and watched spring practice, and how Gilbert utilizes his tight ends. Last season – in Gilbert's final season as South Florida's offensive coordinator – USF tight end Mitchell Wilcox had 43 receptions for 540 yards and two touchdowns. His receptions and yards were the most by a tight end in a single season in USF history, and it was good enough to get Wilcox to earn first-team All-AAC honors. Howard sees those numbers and sees himself hopefully replicating them once he gets into Gilbert's system.
Another factor that played into Howard's decision was how much priority McNeese placed in him. According to Howard, coach Shay told him that he was Shay's first 2020 offer.
"That went a long way with that whole process," Howard said. "Usually the tight end, that's not the highest position. Usually you get the quarterbacks and the receivers. To know that they wanted me that bad is (an honor)."
Something that Howard has not given much attention to is the possibility of bigger schools coming in and offering him a scholarship. He said that if it did happen, he'd sit down with his family and re-evaluate the situation. But as of right now, he's all McNeese.
Howard wanted to commit before the season started so he can focus on becoming a better player and helping his team to more on-field success his senior season. STM finished the 2018 season with an 11-2 record and lost in the Division II Select State Championship game to University Lab of Baton Rouge 55-46. Howard had 29 receptions for 360 yards and three touchdowns as a junior.
Personally, Howard wants to work on becoming stronger and improving his ball skills. But as a team, he has one goal in mind.
"Just a state championship," Howard said. "That's one of the reasons I wanted to commit early. I was going to commit somewhere no matter what before the season. It just felt right to pick McNeese. I wanted to focus on my senior year. I feel like a lot of kids get wrapped up in the college recruiting process and their senior year just flashes right by them. But I want to commit to the team, be a leader, and win a state championship."