THERE was a time when counting Howland High School's Division I college football recruits could be accomplished without breaking a mental sweat.
Those days are gone. And so - not coincidentally - are the days when area teams often looked forward to playing the Tigers. Victories also are much more frequent within the program.
Dick Angle, who arrived at Howland in 1998 after a very successful run at Ursuline, has turned the Tigers into a football talent factory and a winning program, with five playoff appearances in his 11 seasons.
People in other places have noticed. Howland was selected to play in last season's Kirk Herbstreit Challenge. That was a nice, but one of the most impressive acknowledgements of the Tigers' success came in the form of a letter from a Vanderbilt University assistant coach, who wrote Angle recently to let him know the Commodores' coaching staff had identified Howland as one of a select number of high schools that are producing big-time college players at a higher-than-normal rate.
It's true. The list includes Doug Datish (Ohio State), Brandon Alexander (Toledo), Tony Davis (Penn State), Lance Smith (Wisconsin, Memphis), Maurice Smith (Michigan State, Youngstown State), Brad Samsa (YSU) and Chris Kenney (YSU).
On Wednesday, Tyler Scott (Northwestern) and Craig Stan (Air Force) became the latest Tigers to play their way into scholarships with major college football programs. But Angle says it's not just what these players do on the field that catches the eyes of college coaches.
"First of all, we have quality kids," Angle said. "From the classroom to the football field to citizenship, that's a great starting point. Then you show them a program and they buy into it with hard work and enthusiasm."
Howland doesn't just produce impressive Division I players. Angle takes as much pride in what many of his former players have accomplished as student-athletes with Division II and Division III schools.
"Some kids get discouraged if they don't sign the first day and with a Division I program," Angle said. "But I tell our kids sometimes patience is a virtue. You may not be big enough or good enough to play in a Division I program, but there's a place for you to play football if you want to do it. We try to fit our kids academically to the college and athletically to the football program."
Josh Settlemire (Malone), Steve Boyle (Thiel), Ryne Nutt (Central Connecticut State), Reese Mowery (Coast Guard) and Brian Bixler (Coast Guard) are among former Howland players who've had success at the small-college level.
"The coach at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (Bill George) said, 'I'll take anybody you have like Mowery and Bixler. I don't even have to see film on them,' '' Angle said.
Brian Bishoff was the first Howland player under the tutelage of Angle and his staff to play in college.
"He was a little 5-foot-7 receiver who went to Denison and started for three years," Angle said.
It might have been relatively new for Howland, but not for Angle.
"We did the same thing at other places and it starts with those three qualities," he said.