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June 16, 2012

Howard not content with status quo

MORE: Five-Star Challenge | Underclassmen Challenge

Some players have it. Some players don't.

A player's internal drive, a desire to be better today than you were yesterday, is different from recruit to recruit. Some athletes who already boast the offer list they want, often opt out of camps, combines and showcases. After all, who could blame them. What is left to prove, especially for committed prospects, when you reached that level? Yet, for some there remains a burning desire to compete and take every chance to get better as a player.

Take Alabama commitment O.J. Howard as an example. The 6-foot-6, 226-pound physical specimen pledged to the Crimson Tide in July 2011, before his junior season. That alone could give him reason to be content, resting on the fact that his football future is on solid footing.

But that's not the route the four-star tight end chose. Instead, he eagerly anticipates competing in the upcoming Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge. The inaugural Challenge will take place on June 22-24 at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta and will feature 80 of the best players from the Class of 2013 and 20 top-ranking juniors from the Class of 2014.

He needs the competition of the nation's premier recruits to prove he's the best. He awaits the opportunity. He wants a fifth star.

"I actually want to compete and have fun and try to get a fifth star because that'd be a big," Howard said. "It would be a tremendous accomplishment for me so I'm looking to it, I'm going so I can have fun and most of all try to get that fifth star.

"I feel I'm pretty close, you know, I just want to go out there and not do too much, just go out there and have a good camp and compete."

The opportunity to prove he's the best is there with the No. 1 rated tight end, Adam Breneman, slated to compete. Howard said he welcomes the challenge of directly comparing his game to all the top tight ends and wide receivers in the country.

"I'm excited to see all of the top guys," Howard said. "They're all really good, and I like watching them and I'm looking forward to seeing them catching balls and dominating. They're the best of the best."

Howard is most excited to bond with his future Alabama teammates.

"I mean, Reuben Foster, he's always a great guy, a good athlete. He's a really good linebacker so he'll dominate like he always does. So I'm looking forward to that."

He's also salivating at the chance to work with the nation's top-ranked quarterback from Sammamish, Wash.

"Well Max Browne, I heard he's going to be there," Howard said. "That'll be a good day to catch balls from him so I'm looking forward to that guy throwing balls and catching balls from him."

Howard was been a regular on the camp/combine this spring and especially impressed at the Rivals/VTO camp in Leeds, Ala., earlier this year. That performance raised his profile, given him other high-profile opportunities like the Five-Star Challenge.

His parents pushed him to take advantage.

"They're always excited for me," Howard said. "They told me to go these camps so this is something that we get to do for once last time since this is my last year. They like to soak it up while they can."

"I decided in late May that I was going to go. I saw all the guys that I liked at camp and have fun with, and I wanted to compete against those guys because they're the best, so I decided I wanted to go. My mom was pretty excited when I got to actually come and attend this camp. It's a pretty tremendous feeling."

Mike Farrell's take

With Adam Breneman out with an injury, this is the chance for O.J. Howard to emerge as the No. 1 tight end in the country and possibly end the drought of five star tight ends since Kyle Rudolph. He has the body type, athleticism, hands and overall agility to dominate at an event like this and if he does, he could be rewarded with that coveted fifth star. He's a matchup nightmare for linebackers and safeties.

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