Last year, the Tar Heels saw a lot of significant players sit out the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. While many still expect Sam Howell to enter the 2022 NFL Draft sometime in the next couple of months, multiple reports today have said that the Tar Heels junior quarterback will play in the bowl game later this month.
As first reported by David Hale, college football writer for ESPN, Howell will suit up at least one last time for the Tar Heels in the December 30th matchup with the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. This is a big boost for a Tar Heel team that is looking for their first win away from Chapel Hill this season and will hope to avoid a losing season in the process of doing so. Howell has been a huge part of the success for the Tar Heels offense this season, throwing for 2,851 and 23 touchdowns and also adding 825 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground, drastically altering his game from the prior two seasons with the Tar Heels.
His choice to play in this game is also a fitting end to his career if he is heading to the NFL following the conclusion of the season. The third-year starting quarterback hails from just outside of Charlotte in Indian Trail, NC and with him playing in this game, that means that he could possibly finish his career in the same place that it started against the same team. His performance in that game against the Gamecocks where he threw for 245 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Tar Heels to a 24-20 win to start off the Mack Brown 2.0 era. That propelled Howell to one of the most productive careers in ACC history and set the table for him to cement himself as the program’s greatest quarterback of all-time.
Howell and the Tar Heels will play their final game of the 2021 season in Bank of America Stadium on Thursday, December 30th starting at 11:30 AM on ESPN. The question now becomes whether or not this could be a step towards Howell returning for his senior season in Chapel Hill.