CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -  Northern Iowa tight end Darion Howard has been suspended for the 2012 football season for violation of team rules, The Courier learned today.

Representatives of the university offered no explanation for the suspension. Director of Athletics Troy Dannen and head football coach Mark Farley declined comment.

A 6-foot-4, 254-pound redshirt junior out of Cedar Falls, Howard enjoyed his best season as a Panther in 2011. Starting nine games, he caught 16 passes. fifth among UNI receivers, for 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Howard's first college score came in the third game of the season against Western Illinois.

Howard, however, ran into trouble in the off-season. In March, he was arrested for first-offense driving while intoxicated, although he did participate in spring practice.

His suspension leaves UNI lacking experienced tight ends. Austin Wells, a member of the rotation at that position in 2011 with eight receptions, has exhausted his college eligibility.

Darion Howard is the son of former UNI tight end Sherrod Howard.

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