- William Wilkerson, RecruitingNation
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SAN ANTONIO -- It's not often that one of the NFL's best will call a prep superstar out of the blue to congratulate him on his accomplishments and wish him good luck down the road.
But that was the case in late November when New York Jets All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis checked in with fellow defensive back Tracy Howard (Miramar, Fla./Miramar), the top cornerback in the ESPNU 150.
That is yet another reason for Howard to pump his chest about his skills and what he's accomplished at such a young age.
However, It's just not in his nature to draw attention to himself.
"I just tend to be humble," said Howard, who stands at a well-put-together 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds.
He is also one of six finalists for the U.S. Army National Player of the Year award, which will be handed out Friday at an awards dinner.
However, he remains humble.
"I heard someone say that it must be hard," he said. "But it's not hard at all to stay humble. It's not hard to blend in. Not one bit."
So much of who Howard is today has to do with how he was brought up. It was important for his father, Tracy Howard Sr., to teach his son that humility is an authentic confidence that can go a long way in many different aspects of life.
"What you see is what you get," the elder Howard said. "He is very humble, very respectful. I've never had any problems with him. He is a very humble kid. That was something that is very important to me because that is how I was raised."
Added the younger Howard: "It's just in me. I'm just not the type to brag or anything and tell them what I can do. I like to show them more than tell them."
Howard, the No. 18 player overall, didn't get too many opportunities to show people what he could do during his high school career, simply because teams didn't want to regret testing him. In the chances he got this season, he swiped eight passes. He had only allowed five completions all season heading into Mirmar's Class 8A regional final on Dec. 3.
But he'll get tested throughout the week at practice and in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday, and he can't wait.
"I feel like any time I step on a field, whether it is practice with my regular team or this one, I always want to give my A-game and give my best effort," Howard said. "This game is a chance to really solidify yourself being around the top players in the nation and show why you belong here."
Howard, who has Florida and LSU in his top two with Florida State on the outside looking in, didn't name anyone in particular that he was excited to be lined up across during practice. But he referenced one name in particular that he was excited to go up against on Saturday.
"I hear everyone talking about this tall guy [Dorial Green-Beckham]," he said. "I am looking forward to sticking any of their top receivers."
This will be the biggest stage he's played on thus far, but it's far from the only stage. In fact, the last time he was on a stage with similar appeal he made a crucial play to help Miramar win the 2009 Florida state title.
The play -- an interception against Miami Central that he returned 70 yards to set up a touchdown -- remains etched in his memory.
"That play came from studying film. I was just studying that play all week," he said. "I knew that they like to run a wheel series combination with a comeback and a curl route. Maybe 95 percent of the time when they come out in the series they go to the comeback first. So when I saw that coming out, I knew there was a high-percentage chance that they were going to run the comeback out of it. He ran it and it was mine."
Let's not forget that play was three seasons ago, and he still remembers Central's tendency with a particular package. It speaks to the seriousness with which he takes the game.
"Just growing up and being a young kid and growing up around certain things, I told myself at a young age that football is what I do best, so that's what I am going to do and run with it," he said. "I have always been a person to take advantage of opportunities no matter what I am going through. It is more self-motivation."
There is plenty of self-motivation to compete with the best this week. Through it all, though, he shall stick to his humble ways.
It'll be as if he's on an island all to himself.
William Wilkerson covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation.