Desmond Howard On Super Bowl 31, Russell Wilson, Nick Toon, and More


The AXE mannequin, Quinn, is headed to this college football season’s biggest games, including the Wisconsin v. Nebraska game, to complete the Ultimate College Football Bucket List. Find out more on, and via hashtag #forthequinn. This week, he’s going to cross Jumping Around off his bucket list.

After I met Quinn — he’s not much of a talker — I got a chance to speak to Desmond Howard of the College Gameday crew. Desmond is a former Big Ten champion, Rose Bowl participant, Heisman Trophy winner, Super Bowl champion, and Super Bowl MVP. He’s done it all. Here’s what Desmond had to say on a litany of topics, ranging from the Packers to Wisconsin football to Michigan and Nebraska as well.

On his kick return against New England in Super Bowl XXXI:

During that game, it seemed like the Patriots were focused on not letting us get a big return, so they had this kickoff where they’d just kick it high and short. That was their game plan, kick it high and short and disrupt their timing. They had just scored a touchdown, I think Curtis Martin scored the touchdown. I think they got excited, and (kicker Adam) Vinatieri kicked that thing to the one. I just remember backing up, because they had been kicking it short and high, so I had my heels on the five and would move up to catch the ball. I remember retreating and thinking “Oh my God, they about to give us a chance.” That’s all we needed was a chance. As I caught the ball, Don Beebe was back there with with me and he started to lead up the hole, it was a middle return. He led right up the hole, I saw a crease, and as we approached it, it got bigger and bigger and bigger. Don’s a small guy, he got his little body through there, he picked off somebody on the side. I got my body through the hole, and then somebody on the right hand side grabbed my facemask and I broke that tackle and I just saw Vinatieri. Get the extra point team out there.

On if Russell Wilson will change Wisconsin football:

I think Wisconsin football is still going to be predicated on the run. That’s what they do, that’s their bread and butter, that’s what they recruit for and they’re going to stay with that. They just have a different element, Russell Wilson, that if things break down, he has the ability to improvise, better than the quarterbacks Wisconsin normally has. We still don’t know what he has against stellar competition.

On Russell Wilson’s NFL chances:

I think if he gets with the right team and the right coordinator he has a shot. We’ve had some, you know, vertically challenged quarterbacks in the NFL before, so he has a shot.

On if there is a quarterback Howard played against who Wilson compares to:

That’s a good question. Not off the top of my head, nobody jumps out at me. I played with a lot of quarterbacks and seen a lot of quarterbacks too. Russell’s a tremendous athlete, obviously. He’s a guy who, even when he’s on the run, he’s not looking to run, he’s still looking to pass. I don’t want to do him a disservice by just throwing out a name. I’m sure I’ll go back on the bus and think about it and eight names will come up.

On Nick Toon’s improvement as a receiver:

I think this is the year for him to step up. Nick, if I’m not mistaken, has been pretty nicked up too. When you’re battling injuries, it’s hard to be as productive as you can be when you’re hurt and you’re injured. Hopefully he can stay healthy and produce like they thought he could when he came here.

On Denard Robinson:

Obviously, he’s a totally different quarterback historically than what Michigan is used to. He brings a totally different and unique skillset to that position. He’s a heck of a talent, no doubt about that. The guy is gifted. It’ll be good to see how this season goes for him under a new regime and a new offensive coordinator. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s gifted.

On Taylor Martinez and the Badgers’ response:

I think the Badgers are going to load the box to stop the run, stop him and stop the tailback [Rex] Burkhead. That’s what I would do, make him drop back, sit in the shotgun, and make him beat us with his arm.