Ty Howle, Penn State's new tight ends coach, carries the rare distinction of crossing three coaching administrations. He was recruited by, and played for, Joe Paterno; was a team captain under Bill O'Brien and now is on James Franklin's coaching staff.
That perspective makes him a unique hire for the Nittany Lions. He's a young coach who left State College to get started in the business and returned to his alma mater, just as he intended.
"When I left Penn State as a player, it was always my goal to get back here as a coach," Howle said.
Howle, 29, joined Penn State's staff as full-time coach in February, being promoted to replace Tyler Bowen, who left for Urban Meyer's staff in Jacksonville. Howle was an offensive analyst for Penn State last season, a job he took after spending four seasons at Western Illinois, including two as the assistant head coach and co-offensive coordinator.
Franklin wasted no time in promoting Howle, doing so before Meyer even had announced Bowen's hiring.
"He wears his pride for this university on his chest each day," Franklin said in announcing Howle's promotion. "His contributions as a member of the 2012 team and as a captain in 2013 will long be remembered by Penn State fans. He was a great addition to our staff as an offensive analyst, and I look forward to watching him thrive in this new role."
Howle's playing career crossed the 2011 divide that changed the course of Penn State football. He arrived in 2009 and won four letters, two each for Paterno and O'Brien. Howle told the story Tuesday during a media conference call that O'Brien recruited his high school (Bunn in North Carolina) while an assistant coach at Duke but didn't offer Howle "because I was too short."
Eventually, Howle played two seasons as an offensive lineman for O'Brien at Penn State, becoming a team captain in 2013. That year, he was named the team's most outstanding senior offensive lineman.
Howle said O'Brien helped seed his coaching career with his approach to the game. Further, those 2012-13 seasons cemented the impact Penn State would have on his future.
That history also prompted former teammate, and linemate, John Urschel to record a video congratulating both Howle and Penn State.
"I think the biggest thing is, we all had each other’s backs," Howle said of playing on the sanctioned 2012 and '13 teams. "We had our players' backs and our coaches' backs, and so it was a neat time to just kind of see that bond of a team come together. I think that ultimately was a little bit why there was so much support when I got the job. Obviously unprecedented times can really bring people together. I think the biggest thing is, we love this place. So it was a really neat experience as far as team-bonding those couple of years."
Howle said the 2012 and '13 teams receive their deserved share of credit for keeping Penn State football afloat. But he also cited the 2014 and '15 teams, the first two of Franklin's term, for building on what his roster started.
Some of those players (Deion Barnes and Wendy Laurent) are at Penn State now as graduate assistants. As Howle said, they're all part of Penn State football's next phase.
"I got to watch from afar the job coach Franklin and the staff was doing from 2014 on, and they did an unbelievable job bringing Penn State back to national prominence," Howle said. "So it was fun to watch from afar and now obviously fun to be a part of what's going on, and I'm excited for the future."
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