George Fox track coach John Smith recalls encouraging Taylor Howard to go out for track as far back as fourth or fifth grade, but basketball was always his first love.
Howard didn't heed Smith's advice until receiving a few more nudges from his mother and former U.S. Olympic team member Michael Clark prior to his junior year in high school.
Two years later, Howard had to choose between running track and trying out for basketball at George Fox or accepting a spot on the Multnomah University basketball team.
In the end, Howard decided earlier this month to go full circle with Smith and join the Bruin track team.
"I'm from Newberg and grew up playing in the George Fox gym and seeing coach Smith as a kid. It just seemed more like a home to me rather than going out and exploring new things, which is always great," Howard said. "Being accepted to George Fox, knowing the school and their reputation, I just felt really blessed and wanted to take that opportunity."
Howard will be given the chance to try out for men's basketball coach Maco Hamilton, but said his focus will be on the classroom and the track.
"I know that coach Smith and George Fox can help me in the things I need to work on," Howard said. "I know I can go farther. I just need that extra coaching."
It was the warm welcome from the team and the quick bond he formed with NHS jumps coach Bruce Sinkbeil that got Howard to stick with track, but he also enjoyed success immediately.
After putting up strong marks as a junior, Howard burst onto the state scene as a senior, at one point posting the longest mark in the state in the triple jump (47-6). He went on to win the Three Rivers League title with a jump of 45-3 inches before placing fifth at state (45-1.5).
Smith said those marks, along with his record in the long jump, will make him immediately competitive in the Northwest Conference and that it wouldn't be a shock if he qualified for the NCAA national championships, which is now Howard's goal.
"If you're not trying to be the best, you won't be," Howard said. "So I always strive for the highest I can go."
As a latecomer to track, Howard will fit right in at George Fox, where Smith has helped a long list of under-the-radar athletes develop into All-Americans and national champions.
"I think he's still got a lot of potential. Talking to Sinkbeil and (NHS coach Brandon) Ramey, they're really high on him, just a good kid, hard worker. It's pretty exciting."