First impressions can be deceiving. Never more so than in the case of Oakland Mills linebacker and fullback Brian Howard.
"The first time people see me they think I'm a big, dumb jock," Howard said. "I'm always trying to dispel that negative stereotype."
At 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Howard cuts an impressive figure when he goes out before a game to meet the opposing captains for the coin toss. He has especially massive arms.
He bench-presses 375 pounds, just 30 pounds away from the school record -- one he aims to break after football season.
"I can't lift heavy during football season because there are so many aches and pains," he said.
Glenelg coach Steve Martinec called Howard, "The most muscular athlete I've ever seen in high school."
Howard couldn't play football until high school because he was always too heavy to make the youth league weight restrictions.
"The only year I could have played was when I was 11, but I would have had to play against 14-year-olds and my dad didn't think that was a good idea," Howard said.
Oakland Mills coach Ken Hovet said, "It's nice to have someone that big. Not many kids have ever looked better in an Oakland Mills uniform."
Howard is so big and strong-looking that opposing teams normally are intimidated.
"Our kids took one look at No. 43 [Howard] and were scared to death," Thomas Johnson coach Ben Wright said.
But there's more to Howard than brawn. He carries a 3.84 GPA and scored 1,360 on the Scholastic Assessment Test.
"He's so intelligent that he is always being chosen to speak to the faculty about this, that and the other," Hovet said.
His intelligence is a reason that schools like Stanford and the Naval Academy are interested in him.
But he also can play.
He leads the team in tackles with 22 solos and 27 assists. He's rushed 32 times for 222 yards and two touchdowns.
And his 45-yard touchdown run last week against Atholton showed that he could be a sensational runner if used more. He carried eight times for 96 yards.
"He could have had a much bigger game, but he injured his ankle in the third quarter and had to leave," Hovet said.
Howard has 4.6 speed, and when he broke away on that 45-yard run he outran Atholton's fastest defender, Keith Jefferson, who has 4.4 speed.
"I like playing linebacker best because I like to hit. But more often than not I get double-teamed," he said.
Most teams try to run away from him.
"He gets better every week," Hovet said. "He's getting pretty heavily recruited. His stats aren't impressing anyone. It's his size, grades and athletic ability."
Howard went out for wrestling for the first time last season and went 25-12, finishing third in the county and third in the region.
As a sophomore shot putter he finished third in the state, second in the region and first in the county.
Last season he was second in the state, first in the region and second in the county. He holds the county record at 55 feet, 3 inches.
Howard also ran on state championship 4 X 100 relays his freshmen and sophomore outdoor track seasons. He played soccer for six or seven years before high school, and he played two years of junior varsity basketball.
But there is more to Howard than sports and academics.
"He's well-rounded. The kind of kid you root for good things to happen to," Hovet said.
He's treasurer of the National Honor Society, a member of the school's peer leadership group and a member of Eastern Coalition, an anti-drug group.
His biggest challenge this year is not athletics or academics, but getting over the loss of his mother who died of a heart attack at age 46 last summer.
"It was a hard summer," he said.
"My mom always provided positive inspiration to do my best, and her heart attack was totally unexpected. She always ate right and exercised, and had no high blood pressure or cholesterol."
Howard has a brother and sister, ages 8 and 9, and he takes care of them on weekends when his father is working.