Brian Howard will forever be linked with excellence in Montgomery County athletics.
The Lincoln Park native was a three-sport standout at Rockville High School back in the late 1970s to early 1980s.
“Brian Howard was one of the most gifted athletes I ever saw,” said Rick Gross, an Albert Einstein High School graduate who played junior varsity athletics when Howard was on the varsity at Rockville. “He could do whatever he wanted on the field.”
Jonathan Grant, who attended Mount Calvary Baptist Church with Howard, described the Maplewood product as unique.
“He was prolific,” said Grant, who played football and basketball at Rockville in the late 1980s. “He was a game changer.”
As a high school senior, Howard guided the Rams’ football team to a 9-1 record on the gridiron. He passed for more than 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns during his career and stamped his name amongst the county’s great signal-callers.
“I never wanted to play quarterback,” recalled Howard. “I wanted to go and play cornerback like my brother played at Rockville High School.”
Howard looked up to his brother, Kent, who competed on the school’s baseball and football teams.
Howard also idolized another African-American quarterback, Ellsworth “Tookey” Turner, who made a name for himself at Gaithersburg High School and later became a legendary player at North Carolina A&T.
“He was the baddest joker I’ve ever seen,” Howard recounted.
During his tenure at Rockville High, Howard guided the boys basketball program to a pair of state championship game appearances at Cole Field House.
Although the 5-foot-10 guard was selected to participate in the prestigious Capital Classic All-Star Game, Howard could not accept the invitation.
“I couldn’t play in the Capital Classic because my baseball eligibility would have been gone,” explained Howard, “so Lorenzo Gill from Blair, he took my place.”
Howard lucked out on an opportunity to play against Michael Jordan in the 1981 Capital Classic but would see the future North Carolina Tar Heel in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I would not have been able to play baseball my senior year if I had played in the Capital Classic,” said Howard. “Baseball was my thing. I had to give up something.”
Howard’s skills on the baseball diamond were also superior, the pitcher and shortstop drew the attention of major league scouts.
However, when it came time to choose a sport to compete at the next level, Howard picked basketball over football and baseball.
Bobby Cremins recruited Howard to play on the hardwood at Georgia Tech.
“I got a chance to play with Brook Steppe,” Howard said about the 17th overall pick in the 1982 NBA Draft. “Brook Steppe was the baddest joker I played with.”
Howard recalled playing against North Carolina’s Jimmy Black and Jordan when Georgia Tech faced off against the Tar Heels.
“My brother and my cousin came down to that game,” recalled Howard. “I was guarding Jimmy Black. Jimmy Black couldn’t deal with me.”
What about guarding Jordan?
“He stuck his tongue out and said ‘guard me,’” Howard explained, “I said, ‘[man] I’m from D.C.’”
Howard is among a group of nine individuals that will be inducted into the inaugural Rockville High School Athletics Hall of Fame in October.
In addition to Howard, the school will also enshrine former student-athletes Larry Hurd Sr., Audra Poulin, Debbie Shockley, Andy Stroud and Gene Thomas along with coaches Jim Connor, Tom Manuel and Larry Nuzzaci.
Howard, who currently resides in Georgia, looks forward to the upcoming induction ceremony and reunion.
“I’m very gracious,” said Howard. “I’m honored. I’m gracious to be in the first class.”