Florida Football: Pup Howard earns high praise from Billy Napier

While only being at Florida for five months, linebacker Grayson "Pup" Howard is already making a major impression with his non-stop work ethic, physical play, and alpha mentality.
Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun / USA

Even though he's been on campus for less than five months, linebacker Grayson "Pup" Howard has rapidly made his presence felt with the Florida Gators football program. The transfer from South Carolina caught the eye of head coach Billy Napier because of his work ethic, aggressiveness, and leadership mentality.

"I think the last month, he's one of the few players that I see in the building every day," Napier told reporters ahead of Monday night's Gator Caravan, praising Howard's constant presence and dedication.

That driven attitude enabled Howard to transition seamlessly after moving from the Gamecocks to the Gators during the offseason. A standout at nearby Jackson High School, the 6'4", 240-pounder was the Times-Union's 2022 All-First Coast Defensive Player of the Year.

"We know immediately that we would want him on our team"

Napier said of adding Howard

Howard's impact has been both immediate and impressive. Despite limited time in Gainesville, he's already established himself as a vocal leader and "alpha" presence on the defensive front seven.

"He's aggressive, man. He's an alpha. He came in and went right to work. I'm impressed with the maturity. I think he's a very bright player and a great communicator."

That maturity and football IQ allowed Howard to quickly pick up Florida's scheme and earn rave reviews throughout spring practices. He recorded six tackles and a pass breakup in the Orange and Blue spring game while taking home the Wilber Marshall Award as the top Gators linebacker of the spring period.

"He had a great spring, and he'll be a major factor for the Gators going forward"

After appearing in 11 games and recording 19 tackles for the Gamecocks last season, Howard was projected as a potential starter at strongside linebacker for Florida entering spring ball. His consistent performance and playmaking abilities validated those lofty expectations.

At Jackson High, Howard was the driving force behind revitalizing the Northside school's program after a decade of struggles. As a senior in 2022, he averaged nearly 20 tackles per game while adding five sacks and three fumble recoveries.

That same physical, high-motor style has quickly translated to the SEC level. Combined with his leadership presence and football intelligence, Howard appears well on his way to becoming a centerpiece of the Gator defense.