Heaps shows true colors, takes responsibility

While backup quarterback Riley Nelson may get the starting job against Oregon State, Jake Heaps is making the most of the situation with a laser-fixed eye focused on his next opportunity. The talented but young sophomore is learning from this experience, while admirably shouldering all responsibility.

Heading into the Oregon State game, Coach Mendenhall didn't say positively that Riley Nelson would start the game. However, Jake Heaps is approaching the situation as if Nelson is the starter. While Nelson may start against Oregon State, Heaps is the future of this program.

"It's a tough situation because when you look at it, in your mind, you should be the present, and if we were playing together as a football team, you wouldn't be discussing if I was the future or not," Heaps said. "You know what I'm saying? So that's a tough aspect to swallow, but at the same time you're dealt with the situation you're handed, and, I mentioned earlier that adversity is going to make you a better player or a worse player. I plan on making this the best situation that I possibly can, and hopefully there will be a lot of fun when my next time comes. That's all I'm looking forward to."

Heaps' current situation is an opportunity for self-evaluation.

"I mean, it's a different situation," said Heaps. "As quarterback I have to go back and look at the film before and really dissect it and see what I could have done better, and just come in with a new mindset and approach practice every day. It's really just a day-to-day basis, because you never know when your next opportunity can be, so I'm just focused in on today and then I'll focus on the next day and take it one day at a time and try and make the best of it."

With a new mindset and taking a more evaluative approach, Heaps hasn't changed the way he prepares, nor has Coach Doman asked him to.

"No, no it hasn't changed at all as the backup quarterback, and just in my personality alone I'm going to prepare like I'm the starter," Heaps said. "It's not going to matter to me whether I am or not. I'm going to make sure that I'm prepared the best way that I possibly can and not make any excuses about it. You know, just take it one day at a time and move forward."

Although Heaps is now the backup quarterback, he's handling the role just fine.

"I feel like it's a tough process to go through, but I feel like I've handled it the best way that I possibly can. I think my teammates have respected the way that I've handled it. You know, this is about a time for our football team and whether or not we can get W's on the board, and really that's all that I care about is whether or not we can win football games.

"I love all these guys on this football team, so I'm happy when they make a great play or have success regardless of whether I'm on the football field or not. This is a great opportunity for me to get better and learn from and grow as much as I possibly can."

Being the type of leader that he is, Heaps is taking full responsibility for the lack of offensive production this season. He's taking shouldering and taking all of the blame for how the team has performed so far.

"As the quarterback, I don't want the finger pointed anywhere else … whatever call Coach Doman gives me, I have to execute it as best I can. I have to get us in the right situation. Personnel-wise, I have to make sure that I throw it to the right guy at the right time, and the blame is all on the quarterback and that's where I want it to be.

"I don't want it to be anywhere else. I'll shoulder all the blame for everything and that's the type of guy that I am and the type of quarterback that I am and hope to be. If I'm pointing fingers at anybody else, that's not a good sign of a good quarterback."

While Heaps takes full responsibility for the lack of offensive play, whether that's rightly deserved or not, his confidence is still strong and unshaken as he looks to move forward.

"Now it's a matter of preparing and really getting yourself prepared for the next opportunity. That's really what I'm focused on is the next opportunity and the next chance that I get.

"Who knows when that could be? It could be tomorrow and it could be this Saturday or a year or two down the road, who knows? But, I'm working for that next opportunity. It would be a real shame if I didn't prepare myself to be ready for that chance, and so that's really what I'm working on is preparing and getting ready for that next opportunity."

What's it going to take for Heaps to get that next opportunity? Will it be poor play from Nelson or better execution from Heaps?

"Really, it's out of my control other than controlling what I can, and that's coming to practice and working hard from day to day," he said. "No matter if I get a ton of reps or a little, I have to make the best of those reps and those opportunities and take advantage of it. Really it's out of my hands, and really the only way I'm going to see the field is unfortunately if we're not playing well or an injury occurs, so I'm just going to make sure that I'm ready if that happens, and if I get the chance not look back and enjoy the moment."

Heaps is taking it all in while biding his time. Absorbing everything the situation can teach him, while conducting himself in manner that shows support and leadership, will only make him a better quarterback when his future becomes the present.

"That's how you have to come in, and also not putting pressure on yourself to perform. When you're coming out there you're expected to play well obviously, but really at that point you're expected to help the team win.

"I want to go beyond people's expectations and perform at the level and potential that I know I'm capable of. Once I get that next opportunity, I plan on doing that. I'm excited and it's a tough situation, but, like I said, I'll just put my best foot forward and make every day the best I can."

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