interest, criminal law. But two years turned into five, and eight years later, Howard was still drafting agreements and exploration leases.
In 1986, the former track star dislocated his kneecap while playing basketball and was sidelined for a month. It gave him a lot of time to think about his life. “If I was going to make a move, I had to do it then,” recalls the 45-year-old Howard. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I knew my job wasn’t giving me what I needed.” Soon after retur
ning to work, Howard paid off some bills and cashed in his company stock options. With six months’ salary in the bank, he said good-bye to his $49,000-a-year job.
He “enjoyed life” for the next six months. When he wasn’t going to the gym or riding his bike, he was traveling throughout the U.S., Mexico or the Caribbean. However, his physical and spiritual retreat was periodically interrupted by a Greek chorus of friends and family. “They would say, ‘Don’t you think it’s time to go back to work?’ They were afraid I would start to drift,” says the Dallas-native. But even Howard had to admit he was becoming bored. “The experience was great, but I soon realized that what we do in our jobs helps to define who we are. I felt as though I was losing my identity,” he recalls. Even socializing was met with trepidation as he tried to avoid the most commonly asked icebreaker, “What do you do?”
Soon after, he began working parttime as a court-appointed attorney, living out his dream of practicing criminal law–or so he thought. It paid the bills but the personal fulfillment he yearned for was absent. Reluctantly, he decided to go back to corporate America.
By January 1987, the oil industry had taken a plunge. The arena he thought he could always return to had dried up, offering few opportunities. Anxiety began to mount as his job hunt dragged on longer than he had expected. Howard wondered if he had done the right thing in leaving. A year after breaking with Sun Oil, he joined Hexter-Fair, a now defunct Dallas real estate firm, as a staff attorney. Two years later Howard was disillusioned with corporate America–once again.
A magazine ad for a sports management program at Kent State turned his life around. In May 1990, Howard packed up and headed to Ohio for the one-year master’s program. He had finally found his calling.
On a full scholarship, Howard lived off of savings and the $500-a-month stipend he received as a graduate assistant. He interned with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in Kansas for a year. A professor suggested he consider college athletics and, in 1991, he took a job with his alma mater as assistant athletic director in charge of compliance. “I love it!,” says Howard who combines his love of sports with law by ensuring that the university, its athletes and coaches comply with NCAA rules.
“I could have made more money in the legal