January 29, 2023


‘A dream come true:’ Marist’s Jamel Howard Jr. commits to Wisconsin

Marist's Jamel Howard Jr. committed to play collegiate football at Wisconsin.

Jamel Howard Jr. has told his friends that he’d be playing college football since they were in kindergarten.

Now the Marist rising senior and his friends won’t need to talk about his dreams as a hypothetical anymore after Howard announced his commitment to Wisconsin on Sunday.

“This is a dream come true,” Howard said. “I want to go to college to play football, I want to eventually be in the NFL. Taking those next steps and progressions that I’ve been talking about for a really long time, I’m glad I actually got this experience and accomplished one of my goals.”

Wisconsin coaches showed interest in the interior defensive lineman about a year ago when they started talking to Howard, but they made it clear from the start that he needed to make some improvements both on the field and in the classroom in order to earn a scholarship.

Howard took that to heart and worked hard over the past year to improve himself both physically and mentally in order to earn an offer on May 7.

“For him to really take those words to heart and put in the work on both sides, it opened up those doors for those Power Five offers,” Marist coach Ron Dawczak said. “It was great to see him to do it and see how happy he was when those offers came through, knowing his hard work in the field and classroom paid off.”

Howard held 13 offers, including two other Power Five offers from Illinois and Iowa State. He visited Madison during the second weekend of June and appreciated the honesty that everyone showed him while he visited.

The defensive lineman considered Illinois, Iowa State, Western Michigan and Ball State, but Howard wanted to take the opportunity in front of him and committed to the place that felt like home.

“The people and the players were genuine, they told the truth,” Howard said. “I like honest people around me.”

247Sports Composite ranks Howard as a three-star defensive lineman, 26th-best in Illinois while Rivals also ranks him as a three-star, 33rd best in the state. Howard finished his junior season with 27 total tackles in nine games, including four for a loss. He also recorded half a sack.

Dawczak has been impressed with how he’s improved himself over the past year by getting into better shape so he can be more available during games. At 6-foot-2 and 320 pounds, Dawczak said Howard’s explosiveness and athleticism are really impressive and will translate well in the Big Ten.

“He has a tremendous future,” Dawczak said. “Just playing on the interior defensive line, he’s going to be able to excel against the run, but I think his quickness is going to surprise a lot of people at the next level where I think he has the potential to be one of those guys who stays out on the field for three downs.”

Howard’s excited to put his recruitment behind him and just focus on his senior season. He’s worked on his physical and mental game so that he can help Marist make another deep postseason run after losing in the Class 8A quarterfinals last season.

“I’m extremely excited,” Howard said. “I’m excited that I just get to play football now.”

Michal Dwojak

Michal Dwojak

Michal is an award-winning sports journalist based in Chicago. He most recently served as the sports editor of The Glenview Lantern and Northbrook Tower and is a graduate of the College of Media at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.