Ermel M. Howard, who lettered three years each in football and baseball at Tennessee from 1946-48 and went on to a longtime teaching and coaching career in the local high school ranks, died Wednesday in Knoxville. He was 88.
Howard came to UT from the coal-mining area of Matawan, W.Va. A star high school athlete, he was a Golden Gloves boxer, wrestler, football and baseball standout. When offered a scholarship by the legendary Gen. Robert Neyland to play football at Tennessee, Howard is said to have dropped his coal miner's gear on the spot and raced to Knoxville to pursue a better life.
At Tennessee, Howard forged a close personal relationship with Neyland and the orphan since age 5 considered his Hall of Fame coach a surrogate father.
Howard played both offensive and defensive guard for the Vols and was a member of the 1946 SEC championship squad that played in the Orange Bowl. He also lettered as a baseball catcher and spent time with the basketball junior varsity.
His time at UT was interrupted by World War II when he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and served in the South Pacific. Howard was presented two air medals for his 54 missions as a radio operator and tail gunner.
After finishing his collegiate playing career, Howard turned to coaching and spent time on the UT staff and in the Knoxville area before accepting a football assistant's position at the University of Wyoming. He coached in Laramie from 1953-55 and for his distinguished career efforts was inducted into the University of Wyoming Hall of Fame in 2001.
Howard returned to Knoxville in 1956 and was named head football coach at Bearden High School. He earned coach of the year honors the following season and went on to coach and teach on the staffs of South Doyle, Fulton, Catholic and Rule high schools. He retired as a teacher at Rule in 1991 after 42 years of combined service.
Howard was a past president of the American Federation of Teachers and a member of Spring Place Presbyterian Church. He also avidly followed the Vols and attended games at Neyland Stadium well into his 80s.
He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Iris F. Howard of Knoxville, and three daughters: Iris A. Howard of Antwerp, Belgium; Michelle E. Howard of Atlanta, Ga., and Carol L. Elam of Farragut.
Funeral services are Sunday at 5 p.m. in the chapel of Bridges Funeral Home, 5430 Rutledge Pike, Knoxville. The family is receiving friends at the same location Sunday beginning at 4 p.m.
Story Courtesy: UT Sports Information