Is Delano Howell the Colts' Next Strong Safety?

Posted May 13, 2014

With a chance to influence people, Delano Howell goes about it quietly in a forceful business. As the Colts push toward 2014 with a spot open at safety, Howell will make his push.

INDIANAPOLIS – Nestled close to Cory Redding’s locker and just beyond it the one formerly held formerly by Antoine Bethea, Delano Howell quietly goes about his business.


Bethea used to hold court at his as a tenured veteran, while a visit to Redding’s locker is a must for reporters needing a football quote delivered with evangelic zeal.


Sometimes, it is hard to notice Howell right there, but that is his M.O.


“(He’s) very much the sort of strong, silent type, the Clint Eastwood type – say a little, do a lot,” said Andrew Luck, a four-year Stanford teammate.  “He’s been that way for a long time, which makes it really fun to play with him.”


As Colts fans clamor for the next strong safety, he could be right under their noses.


The youngest of four children, Howell competed against siblings who all played collegiate sports before he did.


As a prep running in California, Howell topped 4,000 yards and 60 touchdowns, then became one of eight newbies to play as a freshman at Stanford in 2008.


Former Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh, a noted battler himself, noticed the spunk in Howell and asked him to shift to safety as a sophomore.


Howell spoke softly and carried his hitting stick so well that he was honorable mention all-conference as an 11-game starter. 


By his final year, Howell was first-team All-Pac-12 and earned the school’s Jack Huston Award as the individual who “best exemplifies aggressiveness, exceptional performance and unheralded efforts.” 


Howell told one passerby at his locker recently, “After moving to defense and coming to understand the mentality, that we’re out there hunting, I would never want to play running back again. … It works for my personality.  It’s perfect for me.”


Howell, undrafted out of Stanford, has toiled his way from the Buffalo practice squad to Indianapolis, playing in five games in 2012 and six games last year before getting hurt.


Last year, Howell opened three games at free safety for an injured LaRon Landry, two of which were signature wins – at San Francisco (27-7) and versus Seattle (34-28).


“I think back to Delano Howell, we went out and beat a pretty good football team (the 49ers),” said Chuck Pagano Saturday when asked after the club did not draft a safety.  “He started and had six, seven, eight tackles (and) was pretty productive. He returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown against Seattle.”


Indeed, Howell’s 61-yard return gave Indianapolis a 14-12 lead in a contest with four lead changes were the Colts topped the eventual world champions.


Howell helped defense two of the NFL’s most potent offenses featuring quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson and backs Frank Gore and Marshawn Lynch, but his post-game Seattle comments mirrored Luck’s Eastwood analysis.


“The great thing about our team is we have great coaches, great leadership,” said Howell.  “We are going to prepare and make sure we take care of business on Sundays.”


Howell carries himself stoically like Bethea, the player he now aims to succeed.


“There is always opportunity.  Opportunity is always relative,” said Howell.  “Antoine is not here anymore.  Clearly, this is the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had in my life.  I definitely want to take advantage of it.”


When quizzed on his quiet nature, Howell points back to family, where his siblings and he followed the example of their late father, Keith.


“I’m not one of those guys who talks a lot.  I just do what coaches tell me to do,” said Howell.  “It’s a product of how I was raised.  I was raised to respect authority.  I just do what I’m told. 


“I think people can lead in different ways.  For the most part I don’t say much, I just lead by doing what I’m supposed to do.  I put 100 percent effort in my craft and just taking pride in what I do.”


Howell joins Sergio Brown and a couple of others hoping to replace one of the most productive Colts ever. 


They know the score and the accompanying attention in trying it.  Howell has been battling to do it since Indianapolis plucked him from Buffalo two years ago.


He has bided his time, and the time is now.


“I always look forward to competition.  It’s a great environment and opportunity to rebuild who you are,” said Howell.  “It reveals part of your character.  How do you act under pressure?  How do you act when there’s competition?  How do you treat people you’re competing against? 


“Last year, I was competing against Larry (Asante).  He was a friend of mine.  He taught me by his example that through competition, you could still treat (guys) like family.  You don’t have to shun them.  I’m looking forward to the competition.  I have high expectations of myself.  Ultimately, I want to glorify God.”

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