By Will Hammock
It was hard for Chase Howe to ignore what people were saying about him as a Wesleyan senior.
He heard it all - too short, too slow, a Division III player at best. It wasn't encouraging for the high schooler's football future, but deep down he believed.
"I didn't believe any of that stuff," said Howe, now a redshirt junior linebacker at Division I-AA/FCS Coastal Carolina. "A lot of people talked about my height. I didn't believe that was an issue. People have said that all my life."
Despite the doubters, Howe still garnered college interest coming out of Wesleyan. He had some Division II and a few I-AA offers, and had many bigger schools interested in him as a punter (he averaged nearly 40 yards per punt his final two seasons).
But he said being a punter "didn't fit him" and he turned down his other options for Coastal Carolina.
So he headed to Myrtle Beach, S.C., with a mission - earn a spot on the team as a walk-on. He's not only done that, now he's a starting linebacker. With two starts already this season, he has a good chance to earn a scholarship before his senior season in 2008.
The 5-foot-11, 225-pounder has demonstrated the linebacking prowess he showed at Wesleyan, where he made a school-record 376 tackles in his career. Not that it was overnight success.
He redshirted in 2004 and didn't play in 2005, his redshirt freshman season. He played in nine games last season, mostly on special teams, and recorded 11 tackles.
But this year he's started both games for 1-1 Coastal Carolina and had seven tackles and a fumble recovery in last week's win over Winston-Salem State. He expects to start his third game in a row today vs. Georgia Southern.
"It's an awesome feeling (to start)," said Howe, an All-Big South Academic Team member with a 3.5 GPA. "I've worked so hard to get where I am and proved everybody wrong. I showed them I could do it."
Montgomery runs for career high
North Gwinnett grad David Montgomery, a sophomore running back at Gardner-Webb (N.C.), rushed for a career-best 145 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries in last week's 27-6 win over Jacksonville.
Montgomery had a 29-yard scoring run in the first quarter and added a 74-yard TD run just seconds into the third quarter.
His teammate, Norcross grad DuVaughn Flagler, had five catches for 113 yards and a TD.
Rodgriguez shines in debut
Although his Wittenberg (Ohio) team lost 13-0 to Capital University, Central Gwinnett grad Manny Rodriguez fared well in his first college game.
Rodriguez, a freshman safety, had six tackles and an interception.
Cheek scores twice in Liberty's opener
Dacula grad Wesley Cheek scored two TDs in Liberty's 38-14 victory over Tusculum in the season opener. The 6-foot, 210-pound sophomore has nine rushes for 43 yards this season for the 2-0 Flames.
Mercer, English get North Georgia honors
Gwinnett grads Adam Mercer and Jessica English were named the North Georgia athletes of the month for their play with the Saints' soccer teams.
Mercer, a Peachtree Ridge grad, has three goals this season to tie the North Georgia record for Division II play while English, a Brookwood grad, has stood out as the Saints' goalkeeper, recently earning Peach Belt Conference player of the week honors.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting the achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or via fax to 770-339-8081.
SideBar: IN FRONT OF THE CAMERAS
A quick look at where to watch former Gwinnett standouts in this weekend's college football action:
Noon - Central Michigan at Purdue, ESPN2
Grayson's Brandon Erwin (No. 20) plays defensive back for Purdue.
12:30 p.m. - Mississippi State at Auburn, WATL
Parkview's Brad Lester (No. 1) plays running back, South's Rod Smith (No. 80) plays wide receiver, Snellville's Michael Hatter (No. 67) plays offensive line for Auburn.
3:30 p.m. - Ohio State at Washington, ESPN
Norcross' Larry Grant (No. 6) plays linebacker, Peachtree Ridge's Cameron Heyward (No. 97) plays defensive line for Ohio State.
6:45 p.m. - Arkansas at Alabama, ESPN
Norcross' Jamie Christensen (No. 86) is the kicker for Alabama, Grayson's Lorenzo Washington (No. 97) plays defensive line, Norcross' Darius Hanks (No. 15) plays wide receiver for Alabama.
7 p.m. - Georgia Southern at Coastal Carolina, SportSouth
For Georgia Southern, Brookwood's Chris Covington (No. 28) plays running back, GAC's Lee Chapple (No. 15) plays quarterback, Buford's Brandon McEachern (No. 49) plays defensive line, Brookwood's Matt Covington (No. 41) plays fullback, GAC's Josh Barker (No. 76) plays offensive line, Buford's Garryon Taylor (No. 83) plays wide receiver.
For Coastal Carolina, GAC's Scott Fambrough (No. 18) plays tight end and Wesleyan's Chase Howe (No. 51) plays linebacker for Coastal Carolina.
8 p.m. - Boston College at Georgia Tech, ESPN 2
For Georgia Tech, Buford's Kyle Manley (No. 11) plays quarterback, Duluth's Tyler Davis (No. 86) plays wide receiver, Duluth's Jason Davis (No. 45) plays running back, Norcross' Luke Snider (No. 66) plays linebacker, Duluth's Iain Vance (No. 12) is a kicker, South's Zach Krish (No. 79) is an offensive lineman, Norcross' Bryce Dykes (No. 16) plays quarterback.
10 p.m. - Florida State at Colorado, ESPN
Parkview's David Overmyer (No. 79) plays offensive line for Florida State. Grayson's Conrad Obi (No. 93) plays defensive end for Colorado.