July 17, 2013
I love when people remember where they are from.
Former Lima Senior football standout William Howard does.
The 1982 alum is home this week helping to pump up Lima Pipeline II, which will begin tonight and run through Saturday night in our city.
“Lima Pipeline came about thanks to a group of guys that had come home for different funerals. We got together and said hey, next time let’s come back to Lima and do some positive things,” Howard said.
So William returned to his current hometown of Aurora, Colo. and proceeded to develop a website for Lima people to be a part of: www.limapipeline.com.
“We have over 350 members right now, Lima people living anywhere from California to New York. We hope many of them are here for our celebration,” Howard told me Tuesday night after co-hosting my radio show.
The “pipeline” for Howard with his old hometown is important to him.
“I had a wonderful childhood in Lima. It was the best place to grow up. But it does sadden me to see some of the amenities that we had are no longer here for the current kids. We need to work on that.”
Howard’s childhood was filled with sports.
He became a star running back at Lima Senior.
After a stint at Tennessee Military Institute, Howard decided to play college football at the University of Tennessee.
Howard was a four-year letterman there. He went to four bowls as a Volunteer. They won the SEC championship in 1985.
I remember running a number of Howard’s highlights when I was anchoring the sports at WLIO-TV.
There were several outstanding ones, including Howard losing his helmet during an incredible touchdown run.
YouTube that one, for sure.
I didn’t know that when Howard was about to get drafted by the NFL his family had come down to Knoxville for the big moment.
“Back then the draft wasn’t on TV, and we were waiting by the phone as the draft continued. My family was getting hungry and said they were going to get something to eat. Everyone left, and then the phone rang. It was Tampa Bay head coach Ray Perkins and he said, 'are you ready to take a flight today?' And I said, 'yes sir, I am.'”
Howard was taken in round five by Tampa, the 113th player selected.
He played two years in the NFL.
I remember driving to the Pontiac Silverdome with a cameraman and covering Tampa Bay and Detroit. Another former Lima Senior standout William White was playing for the Lions.
That was a great moment for me to see. Two Lima natives playing on an NFL field at the same time.
It wasn’t a great time for Howard after leaving pro football.
He struggled with drug abuse.
You may remember William hanging out in his hometown back in the early '90s.
It is not one of my favorite memories.
It was a dark time for a guy whose star had shone so brightly before.
But Howard saw the light again and cleaned himself up.
“It was time to grow up,” he remembered. “Peer pressure can be such a bad thing. I had to remind myself that I have always been a leader, always wanted to have a positive impact on other people.”
He has been sober for nearly 20 years.
In his current hometown, Howard is the director of security at Town Center in Aurora.
Did you know that his security team were one of the first officers to respond to the 2012 movie theatre shooting in Aurora that killed 12 people and injured 70 others?
“I got a phone call just before one in the morning. What a horrific event. I will never forget that night,” Howard recalled.
Interesting that this Saturday marks the one year anniversary of that tragedy.
Howard thought about staying in Colorado for the anniversary, but Lima Pipeline II is too important to him and his family.
Speaking of family, last Friday, William hosted his son’s wedding in his own backyard in Aurora. Not only did he host the wedding, he officiated it.
“It was the first time in my life that I was actually nervous,” Howard said. “I am not ordained, but I wanted to do it right. It actually went great. Everyone was happy.”
Lima is happy to have their native son home this week.
If you get a chance to be a part of Lima Pipeline II this weekend whether you can make it to the UAW Hall or Martin Luther King Park, look for a big man in a pink T-shirt with a big smile on his face.
William Howard is home.
Welcome back, William.
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