timberland vest ‘I’m thinking they were jealous of me the whole time’
Eight days before two Syracuse football players were stabbed at an outdoor barbecue on campus, Naesean Howard learned his football career was essentially over.
He met with Syracuse football director of player development Roy Wittke on April 8 and was informed he would not be allowed to try out for a preferred walk on spot. Howard said Wittke told him the decision was based on a report given to the new staff by former head coach Scott Shafer.
Howard said Shafer forced him to leave Syracuse two years ago after an issue with a tutor, the last in a string of off field issues with Howard dating back to a recruiting weekend in January 2014 in which Howard got drunk.
He transferred to Wagner last year but lasted three months before leaving the team and returning to Syracuse. He re enrolled at Syracuse University this academic year and worked two jobs to help pay for schooling, all for the sole purpose of being given a third chance to play football.
A week after that opportunity disintegrated, he walked into the outdoor party with a pocket knife and, police say, an intention to harm two former teammates.
As snow fell outside, Howard spoke for the first time about the circumstances surrounding his departure from Syracuse two years ago, his brief time at Wagner and his desire to return to the Syracuse football program.
His thoughts that Friday afternoon in early April offer a glimpse into his state of mind a week before witnesses said he ambushed Chauncey Scissum and Corey Winfield at a barbecue and repeatedly stabbed them.
Perhaps the most vexing question in this whole ordeal: Why those two?
Howard blamed Scissum and Winfield for an incident during a recruiting weekend in January 2014 that he believed poisoned his relationship with the coaching staff.
Howard said Scissum was his host for the weekend. Hosts are responsible for making recruits comfortable on their visits and ensuring they have a good time. It might mean introducing them to girls, taking them to parties on campus or just hanging out and answering questions about the school and football program.
Howard said he was at a party on South campus with Scissum and other recruits and players when Scissum poured Exclusiv vodka into his cup after Howard told him he had enough.
According to another person at the party, the person did not see Scissum pour alcohol into Howard’s cup. The source wished to remain anonymous because it did not want to get involved in a criminal matter.
Howard said he drank so much he blacked out. He said he was taken to a party at Schine Student Center and remembered Scissum and Winfield were with him when he left there.
Howard believed the two players recorded him on video being carried outside and acting drunk, but it’s unclear if the video ever existed or was deleted before coaches could view it.
“I’m thinking they were jealous of me the whole time,” Howard said of Scissum and Winfield. “They sent it to my phone. I don’t have it anymore. I was pissed off, so I deleted it.
“Maybe they’re jealous of me because I’m coming in with more speed than them. Maybe Chauncey knew I was better than him as a player, so he had to try something to hold me back.”
The next morning, Howard said Shafer and assistant coaches Chuck Bullough and Fred Reed spoke with him about the previous night.
Howard believed the incident was used against him when he arrived on campus later that summer and limited his opportunities on the practice field.
In a separate incident, Shafer suspended Howard for the week of practice at Fort Drum for being late to a team meeting.
Shafer called Howard into his office after the incident.
“My own department didn’t want you here,” Howard recalled an angry Shafer telling him as he slapped a cup of red juice all over his office curtains. “I brought you in here. I gave you a chance.”
Said Howard, the first player who verbally committed to Shafer in his first full recruiting class: “He put me on thin ice after Fort Drum.”
Howard worked on the scout team when he returned until he found himself at odds with Shafer again the week of the Notre Dame game in late September 2014, when Howard was accused of missing a tutoring session.
He said Shafer met with him the previous week and asked him if he wanted to transfer. Now, after the tutoring incident, Howard said Shafer informed him he couldn’t go to the Notre Dame game and would have to sit out practice the following week.
Howard said he met with his parents, Shafer, and a small group of football and athletic department staff members about being released from his scholarship.
“The final meeting I told everyone in the room, ‘I don’t want to leave. This is my favorite school,’ ” Howard said.