North Texas Daily

Howard provides role model for UNT athletes

Howard provides role model for UNT athletes

April 23
21:32 2013

Ryne Gannoe / Senior Staff Writer

No matter where Stephen Howard goes in the Mean Green Athletic Complex, someone stops to talk to him. Howard is a sports information director for the Mean Green athletic department – the go-between for UNT’s athletes, coaches and the media.

While working for UNT, Howard has been mostly responsible for the men’s basketball team and the women’s volleyball team, attending more than 500 athletic events in the last seven years.

Matt Walsh, the men’s basketball team’s equipment manager and friend of Howard, said people gravitate to Howard because of how he treats people.

“Stephen will go out of his way for you and the players, you’ll see them go out of their way for him,” Walsh said. “It’s just the respect everyone has for him.”

Howard, 32, developed personal relationships with the players and coaches around the Mean Green athletic family. The volleyball team even refers to him as “dad.” Walsh said that as he prepares to graduate, he looks to Howard for advice.

“Even now, basketball season being over and my career winding down here, I still go to him daily for stuff,” Walsh said. “Stephen has given some good life lessons to myself and Roger Franklin, and given some funny marital advice for our futures.”

Sometimes you can find Howard at Dan’s Silverleaf having a drink. It’s been his favorite bar since he was a student at UNT, and the place where he met his wife, Kirbie. The two hit it off over Texas Rangers baseball and Howard’s infectious laugh.

“He’s pretty carefree and outgoing, he has a really great laugh and he’s pretty funny,” Kirbie said.  “I miss him sometimes when he travels with the teams but other times it’s kind of nice.”

Howard often jokes around with players, coaches and reporters. He never seems short for words, but some of his funniest moments have come with actions.

Howard walked into the Super Pit for the team’s final practice before the Sun Belt Conference tournament, smiling from ear to ear, wearing black tracksuit pants and a t-shirt. The shirt was a screen-printed picture of NBA prospect Tony Mitchell but with Walsh’s face transposed on Mitchell’s dunking body. The back of the shirt read “Team GLU,” standing for “Guys like us.”

The shirt stemmed from a joke that Walsh made during the season, sarcastically comparing his and Mitchell’s stature and abilities in the weight room.

Behind the wit and humor there is a lot of sincerity. Howard said the best part of his job is developing student athletes into professional adults.

“We get to help student athletes learn how to present themselves, especially for interview situations,” Howard said.  “It’s really rewarding and fulfilling to watch a kid come in here at 17 or 18 years old looking like a newborn deer, and they leave as grown men or women after four or five years.”

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