Dyersburg State Lady Eagles head softball coach George White made the familiar trip to Brighton High School Thursday morning to nab a prize recruit.
White, with assistant coach Will Hess by his side, was excited to be signing Lady Cardinal standout Jade Howard.
White noted her ability to play multiple positions from the infield to outfield. He also pointed out how Howard’s athleticism is accompanied by great timing, passionate play and a fierce approach to playing the middle infield.
Howard explained why she charges every ball and is able to get so much done on the field.
“My dad threw to me countless times and hit me ground balls so many times,” she said. “My grandfather, Ricky Howard, he passed away this year. He helped me out a lot. He threw to me all summer long. He did a lot for me.”
Ricky was looking down over the Brighton gymnasium lobby as his granddaughter inked her letter of intent to play for Dyersburg State. Also there in support of Jade were teammates, coaches, administrators, brother Cody and parents Melissa and Jason.
“She’ll play hard and she’ll give it all she’s got,” Jason said when asked what the key was to his daughter signing to play at the next level. “Her attitude and she’s very supportive of her teammates … She’s had some really good coaches out of all them. They were about supporting your teammate on and off the field. Lot of it as far as her ball comes from them.”
For the past three season Howard has been a member of Robin Jacobs’ Lady Cardinals. Prior to coming to Brighton, Howard started her softball career at the age of 4 with Brad Williams in Covington. She has continued her traveling ball career from Germantown to the Tennessee Mojo.
Those hours on the field during the summer, fall and spring grabbed the attention of the man known as Coach G.
“She’s really, really athletic and fundamentally sound,” White said. “She plays really, really hard. She’s exactly what we’re looking for. She’s going to compete for that starting shortstop job. She’s going to be a factor for us the next couple of years. As soon as I saw her, I knew she was going to be a really good fit for us.”
Because of the global pandemic, Howard lost chances of exposure with the 2020 TSSAA season and traveling ball. White, who has been limited in recruiting, depended on those previous connections to get in touch with Howard and try to pull off the recruiting steal.
“This is my seventh year as head softball coach at Dyersburg State,” he said. “The caliber of athlete I am getting now compared to what I was getting seven years ago when I first started is completely different … I knew there were some Division I school on her. We were looking for a shortstop. I was asking, ‘What is Jade Howard up to? Has she signed anywhere?’ I reached out to her and set up a visit. Two days later she was committed to us.”
Howard said she is relieved to be heading to Dyersburg State to continue her softball career after graduation.
“It feels great to finally be able to commit and know I am going somewhere in college to play,” she said. “It’s been really hard since D-Is haven’t been able to come and look just because of COVID. It’s really been a struggle for the ’21 Class … It is a really good fit for me. It’s close to home. It’s convenient because I can come home anytime I want to. Coach White is working on a really good program over there.”
Howard was in position to earn a scholarship because of her hours of work at the game. She noted the support of her late grandfather Ricky and the sacrifice of her parents.
“I swapped jobs a couple of times to make money to get her around to where she needed to go or I could be off in order to take her,” Jason said. “To see this moment, I’m just happy for her.”
“He love me a lot,” Jade said of her father fighting back tears. “I know it.”
Jade also knows the dedication her mother has to her well-being and development in the sport of softball.
“She drove me everywhere from South Carolina to all the way to California,” she said. “She’s amazing and she has taught me a lot about character and how to be a great softball player.”
Now the latest great softball player from Brighton has a chance to move onto the next level. Her years of hard work and dedication were not in vain. Jade wanted to encourage her peers in the Class of 2021 to keep pursuing their college sports dream.
“If I could give any advice, ‘Don’t give up. Keep practicing hard. It’s all worth it.’”