When McNeese State coach Sterlin Gilbert was hired in December, one of the first items on his agenda was to offer a scholarship to St. Thomas More tight end Luke Howard, who committed to the Cowboys earlier this month.

"From the beginning, they said I was their first offer in the 2020 class," Howard said. "It meant a lot that they wanted me that badly. It was a big honor.

"The main factor in my decision was the relationship that I built with the coaches. It felt like something I didn't have with any other coaching staff, and I also like how they use their tight ends."

As the offensive coordinator at South Florida, Gilbert relied heavily on the tight end position in the passing game.

"Their tight end last year (Mitchell Wilcox) put up incredible numbers and was named an All-American," Howard said. "I also want to play for a competitive team, and the McNeese staff says the Southland Conference championship runs through Lake Charles."

Howard has family ties to the area.

"My grandparents lived there during my childhood, so it's like a second home because you could say I grew up in Lake Charles," he said. "I love the small-town feeling."

STM offensive coordinator Shane Savoie describes the 6-4, 220-pound senior as a complete player.

"When I think back in the history of STM tight ends, we've had some great ones come through," Savoie said. "But in the last 15 years, he's the best combination of run/pass that we've had at the position.

"Luke fits really well with the way the college game is headed. He has great ball skills. When the ball is in the air, he gets to it."

After getting Howard on board, the McNeese staff appointed him as the face of their next recruiting class.

"When I called coach Gilbert to let him know of my decision, he said it made his night," Howard said. "The second I committed, he said he was turning me into a recruiter now for the rest of the class."

Howard, who has already visited McNeese three times, will return next month to observe summer camp sessions. He has a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and also received offers from Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana and Southern.