Former Cougars standout Matt Heuerman, back, lines up to receive a pass from current Cougars player Jason Grimes during the youth football camp put on Thursday by Matt's older brother, Jeff, at Barron Collier High School. GREGG HARDY/CSI
For Matt Heuerman, the grass wasn’t always greener on the … greens.
The last in a line of brothers to play at Barron Collier High School, Heuerman is preparing to play Division I football for the University of Toledo two years after he decided to take his swing at a golf career following graduation.
Heuerman spent Thursday morning at Cougars Stadium showing off his pass-catching and route-running skills for a group of local youths while working at his brother Jeff’s first Heuerman Camp. Jeff Heuerman, the oldest of three Heuerman brothers who played at Barron Collier from 2007-10 and was a captain on Ohio State’s 2014 national championship team, is about to start his fourth NFL season with the Denver Broncos.
One fifth-place finish at a mini-tour event notwithstanding, Matt Heuerman knew the odds of him becoming a professional golfer were remote.
“It takes so much patience and so much hard work at golf to even have a shot at winning a tournament,” Heuerman said during a break in camp after catching balls from Jason Grimes, who figures to vie with Sean Means for the Barron Collier quarterback job this season. “… I grew up a lot, I learned a lot from golf. I definitely had to come to a realization after two years. The greatest thing about golf is you can play your whole life. That can always be in my back pocket, but right now, I’m just ready to give my all towards football.”
Sharing the same home field once again with his former coach, Mark Jackson (also a camp instructor Thursday), and seeing the kids’ passion for football as they performed drills on a hot and steamy Southwest Florida morning served as affirmation to Heuerman that he made the right decision.
He’s taking the love for football that he rediscovered during his one season playing for Jackson with him to Toledo, where his grandfather also went to school. Built more like a pass-catcher than his brothers (Matt is 6-foot-6, 201 pounds; Jeff is 6-5, 255; and Mike — whose career at Notre Dame never really got off the ground due to injuries — played at 6-4, 203), Heuerman excelled under Jackson’s offensive system during his senior year. He had 51 catches for 685 yards and eight touchdowns.
“I went through a lot with football (my) junior and sophomore year,” Heuerman said. “(Those) were really tough years for everybody to enjoy football, just with the circumstances that we had. Senior year, Coach Jackson came and turned it all around, made me love the game again. I think a two-year break was good. Being back out here and seeing how it is now, this is the way the game’s supposed to be. It feels right. It does. It feels like the right decision was made.”
Heuerman compared Jackson’s offensive mind to that of Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid.
“Coach Jackson thinks a lot like (Reid) — the short passing game, the long passing game,” Heuerman said. “He’s an offensive genius.”
Heuerman sent video showcasing his talents to eight schools, including Missouri, Nebraska and SMU. (“Honestly, I was blown away by the kind of recruiting I got from taking two years off,” he said.) But it was a meeting with Toledo offensive coordinator Brian Wright that immediately sold him on joining the Rockets.
“I just loved the way he was thinking already, with the way he was planning on using me,” said Heuerman, who, just like his days at Barron, will play both wide receiver and tight end, although the possibility exists that he’ll settle into one position full-time.
“They treated me incredibly, and honestly I just fell in love with it. I love the campus. I would’ve liked to have visited some other schools, but honestly I didn’t feel like I needed to. … Toledo felt like the right decision.”
As he makes the transition to Division I football, Heuerman knows he’ll have both of his big brothers to lean on for advice. During the break in camp, he talked about his bond with Jeff.
“As I grew up and went through high school, he was always supporting me,” Matt Heuerman said. “He was supporting me when I was a golfer, and I know he supports me now as a football player. He was definitely always there for me, and it’s good to have both my brothers’ support.”
Said Jeff: “He left a question mark with football at the end of his (high school) career, and he wanted to kind of finish it out and see where it went.”
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