By R.L. Bynum
As expected, Sam Howell will skip his senior season at North Carolina and enter the 2022 NFL draft.
The greatest quarterback in program history made the announcement in a video posted on his Instagram and Twitter pages Saturday afternoon.
“The past few months have been a whirlwind but I have a lot of peace about the next chapter of my life,” Howell said. “With that being said, I’m excited to announce I’ll be entering the 2022 NFL Draft. I’ll forever be grateful for my time here at Carolina and for all the people who made it so special. Chapel Hill will always hold a special place in my heart. I don’t know exactly what the future holds. But I’m hopeful and I know whatever it may be, it’ll be good.”
Drake Maye and Jacolby Criswell will compete to be UNC’s starting quarterback next season.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay each rank Howell as the fifth-best quarterback in the draft and 34th-best overall behind Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, Mississippi’s Matt Corral, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder and Liberty’s Malik Willis.
Howell threw a touchdown pass in all 37 games of his Carolina career, which was the longest active streak in the country. He was responsible for a school-record 111 touchdowns in his career, which ranks fifth all-time among ACC quarterbacks.
“To my teammates, I can’t even find the words to describe how much you guys mean to me,” Howell said. “Guys have been there for me every step of the way. Thank you for the way you guys treated me and the way you guys were always there for me. Being able to go on this journey with you guys on my side made my job so much easier. I’ll miss just hanging out in the locker room.”
Howell passed for a school-record 10,283 career yards, which is fifth all-time in ACC history. N.C. State’s Phillip Rivers is No. 1 with 13,484, but played four seasons and his per season average of 3,371 was lower than Howell’s 3,427. T.J. Yates is second on UNC’s list at 9,377.
His school-record 11,292 yards of total offense is eighth in ACC history. Marquise Williams has the No. 2 UNC total at 10,423. Howell easily has the most touchdown passes in school history by a 92–68 margin over Darian Durant.
Howell set the school single-game records for passing yards (550), total offense (571), total touchdowns (7) and touchdown passes (6) against Wake Forest in 2020.
Howell has the top two touchdown passes seasons in school history with 38 in 2019 and 30 in 2020. Mitch Trubisky still holds the record for most passing yards in a season with 3,748 in 2016, but Howell has the next two highest totals with 3,641 in 2019 and 3,586 in 2020.
Howell has the school record for total touchdowns in a career (111) and season (40 in 2019).
“My three years here have been the best years of my life for so many reasons,” Howell said in the video. “The relationships I’ve built here, are something that I’ll cherish forever. The memories I’ve made here will certainly last forever. Being in the position I’m in today is because of all the amazing people God has placed in my life. I have so many people to thank for what they have meant to my life. I want to start by thanking God for the ability to play football, especially at a place like this.”
Howell thanked Coach Mack Brown, who convinced Howell to flip his commitment to UNC from Florida State. Brown said several times during the 6–7 season that he didn’t expect Howell back next season.
“Thank you for putting your trust in me from day one,” Howell said to Brown. “The faith you had me as an 18-year-old kid is not something I take for granted. I will always be thankful for that.”
He also mentioned offensive coordinator Phil Longo.
“You meant so much to me. Coming here to play for you is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Howell said to Longo. “I’ll always remember the late nights we spent together, the commitment you made to me and to my development, showing me the type of person you are and how much you care about me not only as a player, but as a person.”
Howell also spoke about Tar Heels fans.
“You guys are the best,” Howell said. “It is an honor to go out on the field of play for you guys. There’s been a lot of ups and downs but you guys have always been there for me and my teammates.”
Howell is deeply religious and says that Chapel Hill is where he “developed his relationship with Jesus, as undeserving as I was.”
“I’ve learned that life is not about me,” Howell said. “It’s not about breaking records. And it’s not even about winning the big game. It’s about living for Jesus and trying to be more and more like Him each and every day. Scripture tells us that when we acknowledge God and our ways He will direct our path.”
ACC career passing yards
1. Phillip Rivers, N.C. State, 2000–03 — 13,484 (4 seasons)
2. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh, 2017–21 — 12,303 (4 seasons)
3. Tah Boyd, Clemson, 2010–13 — 11,904 (4 seasons)
4. Ryan Finley, N.C. State, 2014–18 — 11,147 (4 seasons)
5. Sam Howell, Carolina, 2019–21 — 10,283 (3 seasons)
TDs responsible for in ACC career
1. Tajh Boyd, Clemson, 2010–13 — 133 (4 seasons)
2. Lamar Jackson, Louisville, 2015–17 — 119 (3 seasons)
3. Deshaun Watson, Clemson, 2014–16 — 116 (3 seasons)
4. Phillip Rivers, N.C. State, 2000–03 — 112 (4 seasons)
5. Sam Howell, Carolina, 2019–21 — 111 (3 seasons)
Photo via @sam7howell on Instagram