As Tim Howard made save after save on Tuesday, it quickly became apparent that the knockout round had boiled down to just one simple matchup: The standout American goalkeeper against Belgium's unrelenting attack.
But did a much younger Howard see his performance coming almost two decades before the 2014 World Cup? If you look at the yearbook comment he left upon graduating North Brunswick (N.J.) High in 1997, it's possible he might have.
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"It will take a nation of millions to hold me back," wrote an 18-year-old, beardless Howard.
The quote, of course, is a reference to Public Enemy's influential 1988 album "It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back." Howard has professed to being a fan of the group in the past.
Still, the quote sure does apply to Howard's record-setting 16-save performance against the Belgians in the United States' 2-1 loss at the World Cup in Brazil. Belgium has around 11 million citizens and it often seemed that every one of them was on the field trying to break Howard's human wall.
Howard's hometown hasn't forgotten about one of its favorite sons during this Cup run. Around 150 people gathered in North Brunswick's auditorium to watch the match and cheer for Howard.
Also, earlier in the World Cup, Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi wrote about one of the best stories from Howard's high school career. For his senior season, Howard and his coach decided he would play midfielder as a way to relax from the pressures of being a highly-touted keeper for the under-17 national team. He played there the whole season, but when North Brunswick reached its group championship match against Ocean Township it went all the way to penalty kicks. While many assumed Howard would put on the gloves to seal the title, he was quick to offer his support for his keeper JD Martin. North Brunswick would lose the shootout 8-7, but his high school teammates still talk about the leadership he displayed to this very day.
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