With a raven perched high up the north side stands taking in the first day of Ottawa Redblacks training camp, former Carleton Ravens players made their impressions on the turf at TD Place. One of those Ravens was now veteran defensive back Justin Howell, who lined up as the starting safety on the first day.
The chance to start has been long-awaited for Howell, who has always had the goal of eventually earning the starting job in Ottawa. He isn’t shying away from the opportunity, and he knows things can change on a dime.
“I have always wanted to start since I have been here,” Howell said. “That’s why I came back. I wanted to be here, and I wanted to come back and win. In my rookie year going to the Grey Cup, I got a taste of what that is like, and I want to come back here and win a Grey Cup. Same hunger, same desire.”
“I definitely feel ready, I feel confident. I’m just going to do my job to the best of my abilities and if that’s how it works out, I’m ready for that. I feel like I have earned my stripes, and I’m ready to go.”
“That room is going to be ultra-competitive. The defensive back unit alone has a lot of competition across the board, a lot of depth. I might be with the ones today, but there’s a lot of competition there. We’re excited about that. Usually, when you have a competitive room, it translates to being a competitive team.”
Despite the potential for a large increase to his role, Howell is coming to practice with the same mindset he has always had as a professional.
“It’s the same approach as any year, you just have to take it one day at a time,” Howell said. “Nothing is set in stone, we’re all competing, and we have a really tight group in there. There are a lot of good guys with Ty Cranston coming in, Antoine Pruneau can still do what he does, and it’s going to be a competitive training camp. I just have to do my thing every day and keep taking steps forward.”
Howell has been able to sit behind Pruneau and learn since coming into the CFL, but he knows that moving up the depth chart isn’t going to be easy. Pruneau has shown Howell that he’s a relentless fighter, and Howell understands that it won’t be easy to knock the day-one Redblack off his throne.
“Watching [Pruneau] be a pro day in and day out, it’s the consistency,” Howell said, speaking highly of his mentor of the past three seasons. “Taking what I have learned over the years and applying it, while sprinkling in my own special touch.”
Battles for jobs aside, Howell is just happy to be back on the field.
“It feels great to be back out here with everything that has gone on over the last little bit with the CBA,” he said. “It’s nice to get that behind us and move forward.”
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