Such is the life of 5-foot-10, 176-pound Howard, whose career has taken as many unexpected turns as he has made in becoming arguably the premier return man in the NFL.
Howard didn't have to make many turns Sunday on the return of his life, a Super Bowl-record 99-yard kickoff runback that enabled the Packers to regain the momentum in a game they went on to win, 35-21.
Curtis Martin had just run up the middle to score from 18 yards out to narrow the margin to 27-21 with 3:27 to play in the third quarter.
Howard supplied the Packers' counterpunch, taking the ball at his one yard line and finding a gaping hole to his left.
All that appeared between Howard and the far-distant end zone was the Patriots' Mike McGruder.
No problem, because Howard's teammate, fellow kick returner Don Beebe, was also there.
"All I had to do," Beebe said, "was get on the safety, put my helmet in his pads and then it's him [Howard] and the kicker [Adam Vinatieri] and there's no way the kicker is going to tackle Desmond in the open field. It's impossible."
Said Howard: "Once I saw Don Beebe in front of me, I figured it was pretty much a done deal. I just tried to hit the hole at full tilt and make the kicker miss."
That may have been the highlight of Howard's day, but he wasn't through rewriting the Super Bowl record book. In all, he returned four kickoffs for 154 yards and six punts for 90 yards. The 90 yards are also a Super Bowl record.
When Howard was done, he took his call from President Clinton.
"Basically, the president was talking about how he had a bunch of congressmen in there," Howard said, "and they watched the game on the big screen. He realized I'd had some trying times, and he was very happy to see me prevail at this point."
Perhaps President Clinton, no stranger to hard times himself, could relate. In the political world, Clinton is known as the Comeback Kid. In the world of pro football, Howard could claim that title.
When Howard came out of Michigan in 1992 as a Heisman Trophy winner, he was a hot item.
Green Bay wanted him, but so did the Washington Redskins and they traded up to the fourth spot in the draft to nab him.
But on a team already rich in receiving talent, it never seemed to work out for Howard. After three seasons there, he was left unprotected in the expansion draft and was claimed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. They kept him for a season and he landed in Green Bay in 1996 as a free agent.
"To compete at this level," Howard said, "you have to have a lot of confidence in yourself. I know exactly what my talents are, and I was never discouraged no matter what anyone said or wrote. Obviously my parents and my loved ones know what I can do. They've seen me perform since high school, and they've always been supportive. But if the confidence is not within the individual, then you are not going to be effective."
Even Howard's confidence was severely tested when he was hampered by a hip injury in the Packers' camp.
"It was very frustrating," he said, "because I wasn't getting the opportunity to show them what I could do."
He got his chance, but what now for Howard? Does he live happily ever after in Green Bay?
Not necessarily. He is about to become a free agent again and, according to his agent, Leigh Steinberg, Howard still wants to be a primary receiver.
"There's two sides to it," Steinberg said. "On the one hand, he's a specialist and has a unique role with the Green Bay Packers. On the other hand, he's a receiver. He wants to get his hands on the ball."
But in the joyous Packer locker, room, Howard, the first special-teams player and the fourth Heisman winner to be named Super Bowl MVP, was good-naturedly arguing with fellow receivers Beebe and Andre Rison as to which one is the tallest.
Howard is actually the shortest. But not on Sunday.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
SUPER BOWL MVPs
1967--Bart Starr, QB, Green Bay Packers
1968--Bart Starr, QB, Green Bay Packers
1969--Joe Namath, QB, New York Jets
1970--Len Dawson, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
1971--Chuck Howley, LB, Dallas Cowboys
1972--Roger Staubach, QB, Dallas Cowboys
1973--Jake Scott, S, Miami Dolphins
1974--Larry Csonka, RB, Miami Dolphins
1975--Franco Harris, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
1976--Lynn Swann, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
1977--Fred Biletnikoff, WR, Oakland Raiders
1978--Randy White, DT; Harvey Martin, DE, Dallas Cowboys
1979--Terry Bradshaw, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
1980--Terry Bradshaw, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
1981--Jim Plunkett, QB, Oakland Raiders
1982--Joe Montana, QB, San Francisco 49ers
1983--John Riggins, RB, Washington Redskins
1984--Marcus Allen, RB, Los Angeles Raiders
1985--Joe Montana, QB, San Francisco 49ers
1986--Richard Dent, DE, Chicago Bears
1987--Phil Simms, QB, New York Giants
1988--Doug Williams, QB, Washington Redskins
1989--Jerry Rice, WR, San Francisco 49ers
1990--Joe Montana, QB, San Francisco 49ers
1991--Ottis Anderson, RB, New York Giants
1992--Mark Rypien, QB, Washington Redskins
1993--Troy Aikman, QB, Dallas Cowboys
1994--Emmitt Smith, RB, Dallas Cowboys
1995--Steve Young, QB, San Francisco 49ers
1996--Larry Brown, CB, Dallas Cowboys
1997--Desmond Howard, KR, Green Bay Packers
A look at Desmond Howard's MVP performance:
* Punt returns--6 returns, 90 yards
* Kickoff returns--4-154, one touchdown.
* Most yards, punt returns--90
* Longest kickoff return--99 yards
* Highest Average, kickoff returns (minimum 4 returns)--38.5
HOWARD IN PLAYOFFS
* Punt Returns--9 returns, 210 yards, 23.3 avg., 1 touchdown
* Kickoff Returns--9-277, 30.8 avg., 1 touchdown