Darren Howard nearly missed the phone call welcoming him to Kansas State's Ring of Honor

Former Kansas State defensive end Darren Howard (49) pressures Iowa State quarterback Todd Bandhauer during a 1998 game in Manhattan. Howard was inducted into K-State's Ring of Honor on Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
Former Kansas State defensive end Darren Howard (49) pressures Iowa State quarterback Todd Bandhauer during a 1998 game in Manhattan. Howard was inducted into K-State's Ring of Honor on Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

MANHATTAN — Darren Howard almost didn't pick up the phone when he got the call. Then he saw the area code and curiosity got the better of him.

"I was in my office (in Florida) and the phone rang and it was May 5," said Howard, arguably the best defensive end in Kansas State football history. "It's Kansas. And normally, if your name is not in my phone, if my phone rings and your name doesn't pop up, I'm not answering. This day and age, too much spam. Everybody's trying to sell you something."

But he looked at the area code again.

"So, 785, OK. That's Kansas. Might be important," he remembers thinking to himself. "I pick it up and it's coach (Bill) Snyder. And for me, not hearing his voice from 2000 until now, it was exactly the same.

More: Collin Klein's mind won't be on Kansas State football's Ring of Honor ceremony Saturday

Darren Howard
Darren Howard

"The exact same reaction. I thought I was in trouble (and) I had to go to his office. I didn't know what I did, and I was going through my mind, 'What did I do?' And then I remembered I was 45 years old, and I was like, 'I can chill out.'

Old habits die hard, but in fact Snyder was calling to congratulate Howard and welcome him to K-State football's Ring of Honor. Snyder did the same for four other former players whose names were to go on permanent display inside Bill Snyder Family Stadium during Saturday's 6 p.m. season opener against South Dakota.

"He just told me that he's happy to accept me in the Ring of Honor, and I was honored and shocked," said Howard, K-State's all-time sacks leader with 29.5 from 1996-99. "It was maybe noon or 1 o'clock, and I just went home.

"I couldn't work anymore. It was great. I was over the moon. I never foresaw it coming, so it's a really great honor, and hopefully all the other guys see it the same way."

The other former Snyder players are linebacker Arthur Brown (2011-12), quarterback Collin Klein (2009-12), wide receiver Tyler Lockett (2011-14) and quarterback Ell Roberson (2000-03). They are joined by running back Larry Brown (1967-68), who went on to NFL stardom with Washington.

More: Six all-time Kansas State football greats chosen for induction into Ring of Honor

Howard may have been shocked by the news, but few others were. Not only was he a member of one of K-State's all-time great teams in 1998, but followed that up in 1999 with third-team All-America honors from the Associated Press and the defensive most valuable player award in a 24-20 Holiday Bowl victory over Washington.

In addition to the career sacks record, he left K-State ranked second in tackles for loss with 54 and forced fumbles with nine. He also had two interceptions.

After K-State, Howard was drafted in the second round by the New Orleans Saints and played 10 seasons in the NFL — six in New Orleans and four with the Philadelphia Eagles.

While he had not been back in Manhattan since 2000, Howard still keeps up with the Wildcats. He said he sees a bit of himself in current end Nate Matlack and is equally impressed with Felix Anudike-Uzomah.

Friday's news conference with the inductees took place in the new Shamrock Zone that connects the football stadium and Bramlage Coliseum. All of that and a number of other stadium amenities sprung up since Howard left.

The new indoor football facility is currently under construction on the east side of the stadium, while south of the west-side parking lot a volleyball arena and Olympic training center are even further along.

More: 10 things to watch for in Kansas State football's season opener against South Dakota

"I haven't been around yet, so I have a lot more to see," said Howard, who currently is involved in real estate in his native Florida. "It's amazing. And to think in some miniscule way I had a little bit to do with it, it's great, man. I love it."

He also was looking forward to his first K-State game since the 1999 Holiday Bowl.

"I think it's going to be electric," Howard said. "I haven't been in a college atmosphere like this since I left here.

"I think my kids are going to have a good time. My wife and my kids are all post-career, this is like the first opportunity they can be enveloped in that world what Dad was doing 22 years ago."

Calling Ell Roberson and Arthur Brown

Much like Howard, Roberson and Arthur Brown were surprised when they got the Ring of Honor news from Snyder.

"I was actually in a meeting at the time, and he called me twice," said Roberson, who lives in the Houston area and is a corporate compliance trainer with Targa Resources, an oil and gas company. "It was like, 'What does he want, what does he want? He never calls me twice.'

Ell Roberson
Ell Roberson

"So I pick up the phone, kind of in the back, and he told me, and I hollered with joy. I didn't realize I was still in the meeting. Everybody turned back and looked at me and I was like, 'Sorry.'"

Roberson was the Wildcats' quarterback when they stunned No. 1-ranked Oklahoma, 35-7, in the 2003 Big 12 championship game, which many consider the biggest victory in school history.

More: Kansas State football's kickers and specialists quietly taking care of business

Arthur Brown
Arthur Brown

Brown, one of the all-time great high school players in Wichita, transferred to K-State in 2011 after two years at Miami, and in 2012 teamed with Klein and Lockett to help the Wildcats win their second Big 12 title. He was not as easy for Snyder to reach.

"Kenny (Lannou, executive associate athletics director for communications) reached out to me and he connected me with coach Snyder," Brown recalled. "(Snyder) was the one that made it known that I had been inducted to the ring of honor.

"They had been trying to reach me for a while. Once he finally got ahold of me, he said, 'It's easier to get hold of the president.' He just thanked me for all that I had contributed to the team and my character, and likewise I thanked him."

Arne Green is based in Salina and covers Kansas State University sports for the Gannett network. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @arnegreen.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Former Kansas State defensive end Darren Howard to join Ring of Honor