Meet Noah Howes: Dreams to reality for Wolverines tight end

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Rochester Post | Published January 24, 2024

 Noah Howes celebrates the University of Michigan’s 27-20 win over the University of Alabama Jan. 1 to send the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff national championship.

Noah Howes celebrates the University of Michigan’s 27-20 win over the University of Alabama Jan. 1 to send the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff national championship.

Photo provided by Noah Howes

 A young Howes reps his favorite football team — the University of Michigan.

A young Howes reps his favorite football team — the University of Michigan.

Photo provided by Noah Howes


ROCHESTER HILLS — Not even Noah Howes himself knew that walking off Rochester High School’s football field for the last time as a varsity athlete would be a life-changing experience.

A cornerstone of the Falcons’ offensive line, Howes and his teammates went a perfect 6-0 on the season, shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the Oakland Activities Association Blue in 2020-2021 to bring Rochester High School its first league title in 27 years. Rochester’s last undefeated regular season also came in the same year, 1993.

“He’s (Howes) the definition of a grinder, and I mean that in the best way,” Rochester football coach Erik Vernon said. “He worked hard in the classroom, and he worked hard in the weight room.”

With so much excitement surrounding a team who had just finished 1-8 a year prior, a 39-7 loss at home to Rochester Adams in the first round of the Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 State Tournament was devastating.

Instead of dwelling on it and letting the loss define his football career, Howes said he knew that couldn’t be the last time he stepped on the field.

“I’m kind of thankful for that moment, because I wasn’t too sure if I wanted to play college football up until that moment,” Howes said. “After that game, I felt there was no way I could let that be the last football game I played.”

Nearly three years and three months later, Howes walked off the field at NRG Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Houston Texans, as a national champion for the University of Michigan as his parents, Brad and Jeannette Howes, looked on from the stands.

A junior tight end for Michigan, Howes will forever be a part of Wolverines history after Michigan defeated the University of Washington 34-13 Jan. 8 to secure the program’s first national championship since 1997.

“It’s just wild,” Howes said. “I can’t even comprehend it in my head. It’s insane.”

Howes, who’s been a diehard Michigan fan for as long as he can remember, was a regular throughout his childhood at the Big House alongside his uncle, as they would take in any Michigan game they could make it to.

He had firsthand experience growing up of not just the stadium aura and atmosphere of the Big House, but also of legendary Wolverines like Denard Robinson, who’s currently the assistant director of player personnel for Michigan football.

All the experiences became a dream of wearing the maize and blue that Howes one day hoped to make come true, and as collegiate offers started to make their way to him, Howes said he felt there might be a chance to call Ann Arbor home.

“I grew up a huge Michigan fan,” Howes said. “My uncle took me to all the games when I was little. I got old photos of me when I was really young at the Big House. It was always a big dream to go play at Michigan. I struggled with school my freshman year, so I kind of wrote that option off. Once I started getting offers for football, I felt maybe there was a shot.”

Howes earned his shot as a walk-on athlete, an athlete who is a part of the team without an athletic scholarship, for the Wolverines in 2021, but it wasn’t without sacrifice and perseverance for the 6-foot-4, 242-pound offensive lineman-turned tight end.

You read that correctly. As an offensive lineman all his life at Rochester and at 7-on-7 football camps throughout the summer in high school, the trenches were no longer his home, but rather, he was a tight end focused on route running and pass catching, and still blocking as well.

A position change can be a make-or-break situation for some, but Vernon said Howes’ attitude complemented his work ethic against any obstacles.

“He’s kind of the perfect walk-on kid, because he’s going to do everything right,” Vernon said. “He’s not going to get into any trouble. He’s going to do great in the classroom. He’s going to do everything you ask him to at practice, and he’s just going to keep working and never complain.”

The classroom continued to be a strong suit for Howes, who currently studies at the Ross School of Business. He earned Big Ten Distinguished Scholar in 2023 and was named a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree in 2022 and 2023.

On the field, football became an everyday learning process as Howes was adapting to his new environment as a tight end.

Whether it was getting flattened to the ground by a defensive end on a pulling block in practice or the struggles of running pass patterns with one of the best quarterbacks in the country throwing the football, Howes improved month after month at his new position.

Luckily for him, he was able to have a mentor in fifth-year tight end Carter Selzer his first year on the team.

“He was a fifth-year when I was a freshman, and I just tried to be a sponge to him,” Howes said. “He was also a walk-on, so I just tried to replicate what he did at Michigan before he graduated.”

Howes appeared in three games this season for Michigan in wins over UNLV, Bowling Green State University and Indiana University and will be a senior next season for the Wolverines. Howes could have the opportunity to fill the same shoes Selzer did for him in the mentor department, for Howes already has some coaching and leadership ability under his belt from last May as a coach on the Rochester Community Girls Flag Football team.

Rochester Community, a co-op of Rochester, Rochester Adams and Rochester Stoney Creek high schools, is a girls high school flag football team that competed against Madison Heights Bishop Foley United, Lapeer High School and Holly High School.

“I just came home one weekend to visit family, and we’re at breakfast when my sister (Madalyn Howes) mentions she’s playing football,” Howes said. “I’m like, ‘What? With who?’ I was like, ‘I’ll be there.’ An hour later, I was at practice helping coach (Nick Merlo). It was a really cool experience.”

Football has become everything to the Howes family, so much so that Howes’ mother, who is originally from Germany, is brushing Howes up on his football knowledge at times.

“All my life, she never really understood football,” Howes said. “Ever since I started playing at Michigan, she’s been teaching me things, like, ‘What? How did you know about this guy being on this team?’ It’s funny.”

The growth and love for football has increased exponentially for Howes, and there’s only more memories to make with time still remaining in Ann Arbor, but it’s difficult to top a national championship and another moment that Howes said was one of his favorites from the season.

“One of my favorite stories was (Jim) Harbaugh on the stage getting handed the Big Ten trophy from the Big Ten commissioner that had suspended him from coaching,” Howes said. “I thought that was just one of the best pictures. We all had that goal in mind after he was suspended before the Penn State game. That was really cool. Getting back at him was so nice.”

Still, every day is a dream come true for Howes when he’s wearing the maize and blue, and he said there are moments he’ll never forget because of the possibilities football gave him.

“It’s been an unreal opportunity,” Howes said. “Without football, I definitely wouldn’t be here at Michigan and I definitely wouldn’t be at the Ross Business School. Just meeting all these amazing people like coach Harbaugh or Ben Herbert, coach Herb, he’s just instilled so many life lessons in me that I’ll take forever in my life. You never stop learning here.”