There comes a moment in every high school football coach’s tenure when the bat signal has to be flown over the soccer field, seeking a kicker.
That’s how Jordan Ingman found Trevin Howard.
“Sure did,” Ingman said. “That’s exactly how I came across him. He was a sophomore and he was a tough kid. A big part of being a kicker is mentally he has to be tough.”
Howard was named after former Tampa Bay quarterback Trent Dilfer’s son, but soccer was his first passion. He had played soccer for 11 years and was lifting weights during a summer offseason program when he first heard the Pirates needed a kicker.
“I thought, alright, I’ll give it a shot,” Howard said. “Once I started doing it, I started falling in love with it. I think it’s different from everything else. I had no idea about how it worked, but I picked it up about the first or second month after I started. It was harder kicking a football than a soccer ball.”
Howard’s effect was immediate. Extra points were chip shots for him and he could drill the occasional field goal.
“We threw him in the fire and he made some huge kicks for us as a sophomore,” Ingman said. “We won 10 games that year and eight of them were by less than a touchdown. That’s relevant because obviously the kicking game — there were a couple of field goals, one against Southeast that was huge that helped win that game — every game, every one of his extra points and field goals mattered.”
That early experience carried over into this past season, when Howard spent most of the year atop or near the top of the state’s leaderboard for extra-point conversions. His kickoffs also provided a boost in the battle for field position.
“It’s a big deal. It’s a game of inches and field position, as well,” Ingman said. “Kickoffs are an unsung hero in high school football. With that touchback rule, if you can get the ball in the end zone and start the ball at the 20, statistically the offense has a 91 percent chance of not scoring.
“Having a leg like Trevin has not only aids that aspect but also our defense, based off field position,” Ingman added. “That turns into help for our offensive field position.”
It all added up to an invitation to a kicking showcase in Orlando not long after season’s end. There, Howard surprised himself by his performance in a loaded field.
“When I first got there, I was a little nervous because I had never competed against other kids like that,” Howard said.
Howard finished second in the punting competition and made it to the final three on the kicking side.
“Finishing second in punting, that was crazy to me because I don’t punt and I’m not that good at it,” Howard said. “I don’t know how it happened.”
The kicking competition came down to three kickers attempting a 50-yard field goal. Howard’s attempt had plenty of leg but hit an upright.
Still, the performance was good enough to earn him an invitation to a Top 20 national showcase in New Orleans at the end of May. It also vaulted him onto recruiting radars, where he is currently considered a top-100 kicker for 2022 and a solid NCAA Division II prospect.
Initially, the Howards weren’t sure how they were going to put together the money required to attend the camp, but Culver’s, where he works part-time after school, kicked in $1,000 to help with expenses.
Port Charlotte has a Hall of Fame display near the weight room. Whenever Howard walks by, one of the names he sees is John Hall. The 1992 Port Charlotte graduate went on to Wisconsin, then a 10-year career in the NFL. There, he established a reputation not only for nailing big kicks, but for being one of the hardest-hitting kickers in recent memory, once injuring another player during a kickoff.
Ingman said Howard has earned his teammates’ respect not only for his kicking, but for a similar dedication to strength conditioning and hard work.
“He doesn’t try to get out of things like a lot of kickers do. A lot of kickers don’t think they have to lift weights,” Ingman said. “Trevin gets right in there in the weightroom with our guys and he lifts weights just like inside linebackers lift weights and I think that’s done a lot for him in terms of earning the respect of his teammates.
“It’s an unsung position, because you know it when it’s not there but you don’t realize it when it’s being productive,” Ingman added. “He deserves a lot of credit and we’re thankful we have him.”