- Associated Press - Sunday, July 13, 2014

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) - Tim Howard earned the country’s attention with fierce slides, dives and leaps to keep the ball from the net at the World Cup. His mother’s fondest memory, though, came at a game more than 20 years earlier.

It was a rainy Mother’s Day morning in central New Jersey and Howard was a fifth-grader who had just scored a goal in his Hillsborough Soccer Club game. Then came the words, booming across the field, that have been ingrained in the mind of his mother, Esther Howard, ever since.

“We’re standing there like drowned rats,” said Esther Howard, 64, who has lived in Sarasota since 2011. “He scored the goal, and he turned around, and he said ‘Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!’ I will never forget that as long as I live. That was just Tim.”

The beaming mother was among the legions of her son’s fans impressed by the goalkeeper’s ability to make 16 saves for Team USA during its quarterfinal match against Belgium. It was a World Cup record and Howard’s finest performance in his 13 years with the national team.

“I am amazed by his performance in this World Cup,” Esther Howard told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune (http://bit.ly/1owo5Yd). “I always knew he was good, but I had no idea at 35 that he would pull off what he did.”

Howard’s mother attended her son’s last three games at the World Cup. At one point, during the game with Belgian, she lost it.

“I just stood up and let out a scream because I felt like I couldn’t stand it anymore,” she said.

After all the attention of the World Cup - the frenzied love of fans, the internet memes, the call from President Barack Obama - Howard’s mother still has trouble digesting it all.

“I can’t grasp the enormity of his success or his notoriety,” she said. “To me he’s just my kid. Even though he’s 35, he’s still just the Tim that’s always been in my

___

Information from: Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune, http://www.heraldtribune.com