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18 DAYS TO 2023 KICKOFF: Will Howard

In which BracketCat counts down the 18th day until the 2023 kickoff with a profile of Kansas State quarterback Will Howard.

#18 Will Howard
Enjoy your accolades this season, Will Howard. You’ve more than earned them.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

NOTE: Kansas State has elected to advance players’ classification even though the 2020 season did not affect eligibility. Those who wish to take advantage of this extra year will be listed as a (“super”) senior again after their original eligibility would have been exhausted.

#18 Will Howard

True Senior | 6-5 | 242 lbs. | Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Will Howard
Will Howard
Courtesy Kansas State Athletics
  • Position: Quarterback
  • Previous College: None
  • Projection: Starter
  • Status: On Scholarship

William Thomas Howard (b. Sept. 24, 2001) is an experienced pro-style quarterback from Downington High School West in Pennsylvania who is majoring in accounting.

He enters the 2023 campaign ranked eighth in school history in career passing yards per game (142.9), and 10th in both career passing efficiency (130.9) and career touchdowns responsible for (34), plus he is one passing touchdown shy of tying for 10th in school history for a career, while he needs 1,258 passing yards to enter K-State’s career top-10 list.

Howard also is on the preseason watch lists for the 2023 Davey O’Brien Award, Maxwell Award and Wuerffel Trophy, as well as projected as a likely NFL pick following the season.

Just yesterday, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Collin Klein had this to say:

It’s been really fun to watch (Howard) be able to really take the reins as the starting quarterback. He’s working on his craft constantly. From a footwork standpoint to an arm-talent standpoint, he’s improved with how he’s spinning it. For him to truly work our offense and how he has a lot of autonomy in it, and his ability to adjust and work on things, and how he’s able to take advantage of that and grow into that, has been tremendous.

He enrolled in time for spring practices in 2020 and quickly became the primary backup, which lasted 2 1/2 games until a Skylar Thompson injury pressed him into starting duties.

In all, Howard played in nine games in 2020, with starts in each of the final seven contests, and he was one of just four true freshman quarterbacks in the nation to make at least seven starts during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

He threw for 1,178 yards and eight touchdowns on 90-of-168 aim, rushed for 364 yards and three scores on 78 attempts, and set the school record for passing touchdowns by a freshman, while his passing yardage and total offense (1,542) total ranked third.

Howard also ranked fifth in school history among freshmen in rushing yards, and he is the only freshman quarterback ever to reach the top five in that category. He averaged 13.09 yards per completion, the second-highest nationally among true freshmen in 2020.

Howard earned his first career start at TCU, becoming the first true freshman quarterback in Kansas State University history to earn a win in his first career road start.

His season highlight came when he busted an 80-yard run against the Horned Frogs; it tied for the seventh-longest run in school history and was our second longest by a quarterback.

His scamper at TCU also was the fifth-longest run among quarterbacks in the nation during the 2020 season and was the fourth longest by a true freshman, regardless of position.

Howard picked up Big 12 Newcomer of the Week honors following the TCU game, then backed up that with a win in his next start against Kansas as he became the first true freshman in school history to win his first two career starts.

He tallied 243 passing yards against the Jayhawks, the fifth most by a true freshman quarterback in school history, and then totaled 125 rushing yards against Oklahoma State, tied for the fifth most by a freshman in school history and the highest by a quarterback.

Howard also played a majority of the Texas Tech game, leading the Wildcats to a comeback victory after they trailed 21-17 in the fourth quarter.

He had passing plays of 66 and 70 yards against the Red Raiders, becoming the first Wildcat quarterback with two passes of at least 65 yards in the same game since the 2017 season opener and the first in a Big 12 Conference game since 2013.

The second verse was slightly the same as the first, as Howard played in six games in 2021, with starts against Nevada, Oklahoma State and Texas following another Thompson injury.

He finished last season throwing for 332 yards and a touchdown on 30-of-55 aim with just one interception, while he rushed 32 times for 184 yards and four scores.

Howard had a career-high two rushing touchdowns against Nevada, both of which came in the fourth quarter as K-State broke a 17-17 tie. He tallied a 71-yard touchdown run at Texas, the longest for a score in his career and the second-longest overall (80 yards at TCU, 2020).

Howard tossed a 68-yard touchdown pass against Nevada, the second of his career of more than 65 yards (80 yards against Texas Tech, 2020).

He was a first-team Academic All-Big 12 honoree following the season, and entered 2022 on the Wuerffel Trophy watch list and also as an AFCA Good Works Team nominee.

Once again, Howard entered a season looking up at another quarterback (Adrian Martinez now) on the depth chart, but this time, he was the one finishing the season in command.

He played in seven games with five starts over the second half of the season, including the Big 12 Championship game victory over TCU and in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama.

In all, Howard threw for 1,633 yards and 15 touchdowns with just four interceptions on 119-of-199 aim, while he also rushed for three touchdowns and ranked eighth in school history in passing efficiency at 149.6.

He recorded multiple touchdown passes in six straight games, the longest such streak ever by a Wildcat in a single season and the longest overall since Josh Freeman did so in seven games spanning two seasons (the final three games of 2007 and first four games of 2008).

Howard tied a school record with four touchdown passes against Oklahoma State while also setting career highs in passing yards (296) and completions (21), earned Manning Award Star and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week accolades following the OSU game.

It was only the 17th time in school history that a Wildcat had four touchdowns passes in a single game, the first time since Jesse Ertz had four against Central Arkansas in 2017 and the first time against a Big 12 opponent since Jake Waters’ four against Kansas in 2014.

All four of Howard’s touchdown passes against the Cowboys came in the first half as he became only the third Wildcat ever to throw four in a single half (Michael Bishop did it in 1997 against Northern Illinois and Paul Watson did the same in 1988 versus Louisiana Tech).

He nearly tied his career high in passing yards at West Virginia with 294 and had a career-long pass of 80 yards against Kansas, tied for the 12th-longest pass play in school history.

Howard had 35 pass attempts in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama to tie for third in K-State’s bowl history, while his 18 completions tied for sixth.

He helped K-State to average 418.8 yards per game and 210.5 passing yards per game, both the best offensive marks by the Wildcats since 2014, and again finished the season as a first-team Academic All-Big 12 performer who was nominated with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Prior to enrolling early, Howard prepped under head coach Mike Milano at Downingtown West, where he was viewed as the 13th-best pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2020 by 247Sports, while ESPN ranked him as the 26th-best dual-threat quarterback in the class.

He also was regarded as the seventh-best overall prospect in the state of Pennsylvania by 247Sports and No. 11 by ESPN.

Named the All-Southeastern Pennsylvania Player of the Year by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Howard also was designated all-state by the Pennsylvania Football Writers Association and named the Maxwell Football Club Pennsylvania Player of the Year.

He threw for 5,308 yards and 48 touchdowns during his prep career for the Whippets, including a 2,543-yard, 27-touchdown performance as a senior to lead Downingtown West to a 13-2 record, a trip to the state semifinals and the Whippets’ first district title since 1996.

Downingtown West went 11-2 and earned a trip to the state playoffs during Howard’s junior season. In all, he rushed for 512 yards and 21 touchdowns as a prep, and also played basketball, earning a pair of all-area honors after being a 1,000-point scorer in his career.

Regarding Howard’s decision to enroll early at K-State, The Philly Voice correctly opined:

If anyone is equipped to do this, it’s Howard. He possesses all of the components, carrying a weighted 4.34 GPA and a 1,380 score on the SAT. He was the leader of the Whippets’ best season ever, and displayed great character in standing up to questions after throwing two interceptions in the state semifinal loss to Central Dauphin.

An academic as well as athletic achiever, Howard chose K-State over offers from Bowling Green, Cincinnati, Columbia, Cornell, Fordham, Harvard, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Morgan State, Princeton, Rutgers, Temple, Toledo and Yale, as well as interest from Boston College, Duke, Georgia, Kent State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. His primary recruiters were offensive line coach Conor Riley and his current position coach, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Collin Klein.

He was the first Pennsylvania player to sign with the Wildcats since Andre Coleman in 1990.