Magical Moments at Michigan and Green Bay: A New Book Captures the Life of Desmond Howard
Desmond Howard’s NFL time in Green Bay and his college career at University of Michigan are each best remembered by single, spectacular plays.
In his green and gold days, it was his remarkable 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the 1997 Super Bowl that ended any comeback momentum New England might have generated.
Uniformed in his undergraduate maize and blue, Howard is memorialized in photos of ‘The Pose,’ his rendition of the Heisman statue he struck in the end zone during the 1991 Michigan-Ohio State game. It turned out to be a predictor of the voting that year as Howard claimed college football’s top individual honor.
A book published this fall showcases not only those moments on the field but Howard’s years growing up in Ohio, practicing, preparing and playing in college and the pros, performing in key moments to create the lasting prominence of his persona.
“In our sport, things happen relatively quickly,” Howard says. “People don’t see the hard work that goes into it. These things don’t just happen. You don’t just wake up and do them because you’ve been resting and relaxing all summer and fall. There’ a lot of work that goes into it.”
The ‘work’ is an important theme throughout the 192-page, full-color book called I Wore 21: The Legend of Desmond Howard. It’s available through the University of Michigan’s merchandising website, www.mden.com.
Written mainly by Bill Roose, a former Detroit newspaper sportswriter, the book chronicles Howard’s life from his time as a kid crossing town for youth football practice to his success as a University of Michigan star, Heisman trophy winner, Super Bowl MVP and now ESPN college football analyst. It focuses on his career at Michigan – after all, it was produced by a Michigan-based publishing house — but has plenty about Howard’s life post-graduation. (And he did graduate, Howard stresses to the Packers Hall of Fame.com.)
His reminiscence of Super Bowl XXXI earns extensive coverage as Green Bay won the big game 35-21 over the New England Patriots. It’s no wonder, Howard calls that his, “best memory in my 11 years as a pro.”
The book is not simply narrative prose and the obligatory section of black-and-white photos as in a standard biography. Instead, it’s an engaging public scrapbook of Howard’s career with plenty of emphasis on the Green Bay season.
“What led to that Super Bowl victory was perseverance,” Howard says today. “We suffered a rash of major injuries to key players throughout that year. So we persevered. It was similar to what the Packers went through last year (2010) before they won the Super Bowl.”
Howard’s life story is told mainly through lively photos on every page, some provided by his family and never seen publicly before now. A bevy of colorful interviews with Howard’s teammates, coaches, competitors and family paint the rest of the picture, including Charles Woodson and Antonio Freeman recalling the Green Bay days of the early to mid 1990s.
Howard himself was actively engaged in the book’s final form. “Desmond has been an unbelievable teammate in our production of this,” Roose, the author relates.
For his part, Howard isn’t done publishing and would like to write his story, focusing on his family’s early emphasis on education through his playing career and how he’s found post-NFL success as a television analyst.
“I’ve always wanted to write my own book,” he says. “And I still plan on it.”