El Paso, TX — Thomas Howard, who was a standout linebacker at UTEP from 2002-05 prior to enjoying a lengthy NFL career, has passed away in a car accident in California.
“It is shocking and very sad,” UTEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull said. “His story was inspiring. He came here as a walk-on defensive back and through hard work and dedication developed into one of the greatest linebackers in school history. He was enjoying a tremendous NFL career.
“More than anything, though, Thomas was a fine young man, personable and engaging. He always had a smile on his face. He returned to El Paso frequently and was always eager to give back to UTEP. He was a superb alum and friend of the university. It’s just hard to believe that he’s gone. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
UTEP director of football operations Nate Poss was on the staff when Howard visited UTEP... Poss said of Howard "I remember Thomas on his recruiting visit, and he walked on without a scholarship. He was a guy you were so proud of because he was a great man on and off the field, and continued to grow spiritually and as a man, I was always so proud of Thomas. He had a really good career with Oakland, and actually, two years ago I went down and watched him play for the Bengals against the Texans, and Thomas was the starting middle linebacker, just making all the calls all over the field, and that is less than two years ago, just doesn't seem possible today. He was a beloved Miner, just a beloved person because he had such an infectious personality and he cared so much for everybody."
Howard tallied 296 tackles in 48 games for the Miners. He ranks third in school history in tackles for losses (34), and tied for seventh in sacks (13). He was a member of UTEP’s 2004 Houston Bowl and 2005 GMAC Bowl teams.
He was chosen by Oakland in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft, making him UTEP’s highest selection in 37 years. He played for the Raiders from 2006-10 and for Cincinnati from 2011-12. His career totals were 492 tackles, six sacks and seven interceptions in 93 games.
For the last two years, Howard has presented scholarship awards to UTEP walk-on student athletes through his foundation.