Nov. 14, 2011
Written by: Cedrique Flemming, University of Tulsa Media Relations
Alan Dock and Milton Howell took different paths to The University of Tulsa. The former found his way to the TU campus from his high school in Giddings, Texas, while the latter joined the Golden Hurricane football program after spending two years at Navarro Junior College.
The two seniors did have one thing in common, however - they both wanted to play Division I football by any means necessary.
"In my second year at Navarro, I was calling schools and my teammates were talking to coaches for me," Howell said. "I wanted to go to a Division I (Football Bowl Subdivision) school at all costs because I knew I had the ability to play at this level."
Howell played quarterback in junior college, but Tulsa initially wanted him as a safety.
"The coaches here said they wanted me to play defense when they recruited me, and I told them that was fine with me because I just wanted to play for a D-I school," Howell said.
Howell had a hard time adjusting to the FBS level because he hurt his foot in his final year at Navarro and wasn't back at full strength until midway through the 2010 campaign.
Starting cornerback John Flanders was lost for the year during preseason camp, and Howell was asked to fill in for the veteran playmaker at the beginning of this season. Howell has used that opportunity to flourish in the TU defense and transform himself into one of the team's top defensive backs.
He has started every game and is currently tied for 15th in the nation with four interceptions. He is also seventh on the team with 41 tackles. He had a banner game against SMU Oct. 29, when he recorded three INT's and was named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
"Milton has grown tremendously. There really are not enough words to say how much he has grown as a player," senior linebacker Curnelius Arnick said. "He's never played corner until this year, and when he's out there he's just playing his heart out."
Howell serves as a captain for TU, as he contributes heavily on special teams.
Dock has also been a contributor on special teams throughout his career, and he received minimal playing time on defense until this year.
"I played mostly on special teams in my first few years, but I was happy to be able to help the team out," Dock said. "I was finally able to get in the mix my senior year and actually play defense."
Junior DeAundre Brown was penciled in as the starting "Cane" linebacker during the preseason, but he was injured midway through camp and Dock, like Howell, took that opportunity to show what he could do.
"I knew DeAundre was playing my position, but I just prepared myself to be the starter just in case I was given the opportunity," Dock said. "When he went down with that injury, I was ready to go because I was practicing like I was the No. 1 guy."
Dock has started all 10 games this year, and he is fifth on the team with 54 tackles. He also has two interceptions, two pass breakups, two quarterback hurries and two tackles for loss.
"I feel great going out there and playing. I think I've done a pretty good job so far, and I think the coaches see how hard I work," Dock said. "I'm glad I've had the starting position for the first nine games this year, and hopefully I can keep it for the remainder of the season."
Arnick, one of the team captains and starting middle linebacker, talked about the importance of having Dock in the lineup.
"Dock is the brain of our defense. He knows everything," Arnick said. "He can tell you what everyone on the defense does at any particular time, and he's a playmaker as well. He has really risen to the occasion with the opportunity that he's been given. He's been a real asset to our defense."
Dock and Howell have helped Tulsa compile the top-ranked defense in the league this season. During league games, Tulsa ranks first in points allowed (14.0 per game), pass defense efficiency (100.3) and interceptions (10). The team is also second in total defense (322.6 yards allowed per game) and opponent third-down conversions (32.6 percent).
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