It's not often that a fifth-round pick refers to the team that selected him as the perfect landing spot. But that was the case with quarterback Sam Howell.
Washington used the No. 144 overall selection on Howell, a three-year starter for North Carolina. Speaking with local media shortly after the pick was made, the 21-year-old signal-caller made it clear he's thrilled to be joining the Commanders.
"I'm super excited to join this wonderful football team led by Coach [Ron] Rivera, who I have so much respect for," Howell said. "This is the perfect spot for me. It's a team I wanted to play for all along, so I'm super fired up."
As for why he considered Washington to be his ideal landing spot, Howell quickly explained that he believes the team has plenty of talent all around.
"I just think it's a great team. A great defense, so many weapons on offense," Howell said. "I love the quarterback room as well. So many great guys with Carson [Wentz] and Taylor Heinicke in there. I'm just looking forward to getting to work with those guys. It should be a lot of fun. I'm fired up."
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At least initially, Howell won't have the chance to compete for the Commanders' QB1 job. That belongs to Wentz, who the team acquired from Indianapolis this past March. Rivera has gone on the record multiple times to assert his confidence in Wentz, but did say pre-draft the team would look into adding another quarterback to its roster.
Washington did its due diligence on Howell during the pre-draft process, as the quarterback said he met with the team both at the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. His comfortability with the Commanders is another reason why he's pumped to join the club.
"I've had a good amount of communication with them all along. I kind of had a couple of teams that I was interested in," Howell said. "Just after that Combine interview and talking with Coach Rivera, I knew this was definitely a place I wanted to be. I wanted to play for a guy like that. I'm super excited."
Although Howell won't see the field immediately, the quarterback -- who declared early for the draft following his true junior season -- is amped up at the opportunity to learn behind Wentz.
"I have so much respect for Carson and everything he's done in his career," Howell said. "I'm excited I get to go to a place where I can kind of sit back and learn from a guy and just see what it's like to be a pro. I'm super excited to have this opportunity to be with Carson."
Projected as a first-round pick as recently as last summer, Howell had to wait a while for his name to be called. His 2021 season was the worst of his three years with the Tar Heels, but his dropoff in production can largely be attributed to the team losing multiple offensive skill players from UNC's 2020 squad to the NFL Draft following that season.
Entering the 2022 NFL Draft, Howell was unsure where he was going to land or what round he'd be selected. Few draft experts believed he'd slide to the fifth round, however. Still, Howell says he wasn't worried when he'd be chosen, rather, his focus was more on what team he'd wind up with.
"I really had no expectations coming into the draft," he said. "Obviously everyone wants to be a first-round pick. But for me, I just wanted to get on a good team and have the opportunity to help that team win football games. I'm super blessed to have that opportunity."
As Howell gets adjusted to Washington, he'll have at least one familiar face in Ashburn. Wide receiver Dyami Brown, a Commanders third-round pick in 2021, spent two seasons catching passes from the quarterback at UNC. The two were quite the duo with the Tar Heels, as Brown topped the 1,000-yard mark both seasons Howell was his QB1.
It didn't take long for Howell and Brown to reconnect, either. As soon as the pick was announced on TV, Howell's phone started to buzz. It was a FaceTime call from his former and now current teammate. Howell's already looking forward to throwing him the football again.
"He's one of my best friends," Howell said of Brown. "We had so much fun at North Carolina, so I just can't wait to play with him again."