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Like father like daughter: Colorado’s Jaelin Howell knows how to play football

Real Colorado Soccer-USWNT’s Howell takes after her NFL dad

Photo Courtesy U.S. Soccer/ISI Photos

The idiom “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” fits Jaelin Howell and her dad to a T.

In the sphere of prep, college, and professional football, John Howell is well-known in both Western Nebraska and here in the Centennial State. He is enshrined in the Nebraska Eight-Man Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame. His stellar abilities and play took him to Colorado State University where he was a walk-on for their D1 NCAA team. While playing for the CSU Rams, he developed a knack for making interceptions and hard tackles. He was then drafted by the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was a member of their defensive backfield and specialty teams. Today, he sports a Super Bowl ring that he earned after the Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003.

A role model on and off the field, Howell shared his vulnerability to severe depression and how he addressed it while playing in the NFL in a 2012 interview with ESPN.

Meet Jaelin Marie Howell

Following in his footsteps is his daughter, Jaelin Howell—a different kind of footballer. The feisty soccer defensive midfielder and student-athlete at Florida State University.

The 5-foot 8-inch Howell calls Lone Tree, Colorado her hometown, and like her USWNT fall camp teammate Sophia Smith, she graduated from Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins. The duo have been sidekicks since kindergarten.

According to Howell’s mother, Laura, her start as a soccer footballer was “She was horrible. She was seriously not good,” Laura told the Coloradoan in a 2014 interview. “She started at 3. She didn’t even care about the ball, she just followed the pack.”

In due time, good athletic genes, a determination to learn, family support, and ultimately, a passion for the game all came together and Howell’s star power became evident. Today, Howell is wrapping up 10 days of training at Dick’s Sporting Good Park with the senior U.S. Women Soccer Team.

As a U9 through U13, she was a member of the Fort Collins-based Arsenal Colorado Soccer Club. She then elected to take on the long commute from Fort Collins to South Denver and joined Real Colorado Soccer Club. The near-daily round trips, plus private mentoring, paid colossal dividends. Howell played for Real’s U14-18/19 teams and earned a roster spot on Real’s first Girl’s U.S. Soccer Development Academy team. In 2017, she was named 2017 United Soccer Coaches Youth National Player of the Year.

A natural leader and two-time captain for her Real Soccer Club youth teams, Howell helped her side place as runner-ups in the 2014 U14 and 2016 U16 Elite Clubs National League Girl’s National Championships.

As a Florida State Seminole, Howell played in 26 matches as a freshman with 24 starts in the midfield. The following year she started in all 23 games she played in. Competing primarily as a gritty holding midfielder, she helped the Seminole defense in its 16 shutouts in 2018, including two at the College Cup, over #1 ranked Stanford and #3 University of North Carolina. Howell was named College Cup Most Outstanding Player on Defense. The fleet-footed Howell can skip up the pitch, pull the trigger shoot and score, and makes timely assists, too.

Representing the red, white, and blue

This is not Howell’s first call-up to the U.S. Soccer program.

In 2014, she managed the backfield of her U17 National Team during play in South Korea.

She competed with Team USA at the 2016 FIFA U17 and 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup Tournaments in Jordan and France, respectively. She was chosen as one of the Best XI at the 2016 Concacaf Championships.

In 2017, she was called up to the senior women’s team for friendlies with Russia and was a finalist for the 2017 U.S. Soccer Youth Player of the Year Award.

When asked about Howell’s skill set, USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski told Burgundy Wave that “she has done well on Florida State, on a good team and overall individually, too... she is very well-educated in the position that she plays, and the way she plays fits the style that we want to play. She has incredible abilities on the ball and in terms of defense—intercepting passes, cutting off oppositions attacks, and helping her defense.”

Like her father, she is a strong tackler too. Miles of film are proof positive.

All in the Colorado Family

In an August 2018 interview with, John Howell expressed his joy with his daughter’s love of soccer. “It’s fun to get involved in something because your children are taking part in it,” he said. “I really didn’t know anything about soccer, but I’ve become a huge fan, and now I love watching La Liga, the Premier League, the World Cup, men’s football and women’s football.”

Along with Mallory Pugh, Lindsey Horan, and Sophia Smith, Jaelin Howell is the fourth Colorado youth soccer product in recent years that has propelled her way up the ranks of U.S. Soccer.

Imagine Colorado’s Smith and Pugh on the flanks, with Horan and Howell anchoring the senior USWNT midfield.

Someday soon, that picture may just become reality.