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Sizing up offensive lineman Tytus Howard at Senior Bowl

South offensive tackle Tytus Howard of Alabama State

South offensive tackle Tytus Howard of Alabama State (58) loses his helmet in a drill with South defensive end Montez Sweat of Mississippi State (9) during practice for Saturday's Senior Bowl college football game, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, in Mobile, Ala.  Credit: AP/Butch Dill

MOBILE, Ala. – Tytus Howard’s first day at Alabama State was a wake-up call. He arrived as a skinny, shrimpy quarterback out of nearby Monroe County High School, but that quickly changed. He was moved to tight end. Then he was ushered into the weight room and placed with a group that included some of the team’s older linebackers.

“I came out of high school benching around 185,” he said. “They started out with 225 first sets and I couldn’t get 225 off my chest. [The strength coach] was screaming at me. I was like, ‘Damn, this is gonna be a long fall.’ ”

He wound up red-shirting as a freshman and by the time he made it onto the field he’d made another position change to offensive tackle. He grew about three inches, gained almost 100 pounds, and now finds himself at the Senior Bowl looking to be drafted as a NFL lineman.

Not bad for a kid who was so sleight in high school that he had the nickname “Weenie.”

“It’s funny to me,” Howard said of how his body and his football aspirations have changed over the past five years. “When people see me now they’re like ‘We can’t call you Weenie no more because you’re not as small.’ It’s always a joke to see how big I am now versus how small I was then.”

They’ll get a good look at him. Howard said he expects about 200 family and friends at the game this weekend, including a bus full of former teammates from nearby Alabama State. There will also be plenty of NFL scouts watching him closely. With his current size (6-6, 311),’s Daniel Jeremiah called him “ideal” for the position and ranked him 40th overall among prospects. A good showing this week will erase any doubts teams might have about the level of competition he faced at Alabama State.

 Howard said his greatest performance as a quarterback came in his last one in high school when he ran for 315 yards on 16 carries. Although it didn’t translate to playing the position at the next level, it showed the kind of athleticism that can help him at his current position. Having a quarterback background also helps him mentally.

“On the offensive line, you usually don’t know anything about what type of defense people are in and what the safety being [in a certain spot] means,” he said. “Me being a quarterback helped me out with that. It helped me with picking up blitzes and stuff like that.”

It made him more aware of the importance of protecting a quarterback, too.

“I know how it feels to get hit,” he said. “So that puts me in a position now where I’m scared to let my quarterback get hit . . .  I’m always scared of letting the next man down.”

Howard said it was hard to swallow the position move from quarterback at first, but he accepted it. He can still sling the ball a bit, he said, probably better than any of the other offensive linemen at the Senior Bowl or even in his draft class. As for the actual quarterbacks, though, Howard is comfortable giving them the spotlight.

“I wouldn’t measure up to those guys,” he said. “My profession is being an offensive lineman.” 

Notes & quotes: Storms moved Wednesday's practices indoors at the University of South Alabama, limiting the number of coaches and evaluators who could attend. As such, the Mobile area was crawling with NFL assistants who jokingly called it a “snow day” . . . Duke QB Daniel Jones threw back-to-back interceptions in the North team’s practice, but Raiders coach Jon Gruden said he has been impressed by all of the passers on his team. “They have some ability, they have some football aptitude and they’ve got some charisma, so guys really like playing for them,” he said . . . Penn State QB Trace McSorley said he isn’t surprised by the success former teammate Saquon Barkley has had with the Giants. “Being around him for as long as I was, he shocked me every day in college so I got to see everything,” McSorley said. “By the time he was surprising everyone else, I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s about right’ ” . . .  Stetson TE Donald Parham left practice with an ankle injury.

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