Small Town Boy Heitz Earns Illini Fb Offer

The football camp season in a great way for college coaches to see and evaluate players that may have flown under the radar to that point. Two years ago, Coach Ron Zook and his staff discovered Jeff Allen in a summer camp, and he became a starting offensive lineman in his freshman year. This year, Michael Heitz left a lasting impression at camp.

Michael Heitz, an offensive tackle from Vermont, Illinois, camped with the Fighting Illini in early June and on Monday, he got an offer from Illinois.

"Yeah, today I called Coach (Kurt) Beathard, my recruiting coach, and then I talked to Coach (Ron) Zook and he offered me a full scholarship."

Heitz has had ample opportunity to learn about the school and football program. His one-day camp workout was preceded by a tour, his second visit to campus.

"We showed up early, and I got a tour of the entire campus before I did the camp. Also, sometime in May I was heading to Indianapolis, and we stopped by and got a tour of the football facilities. I talked to Coach Zook and the head strength and conditioning coach (Lou Hernandez) then."

Heitz has a natural attraction to his state school.

"I've always liked Illinois. It's pretty much Big 10 for me. If the Big 10 goes up against anyone else, I'll root for the Big 10."

Before Illinois offered, other state schools had discovered the small-town prospect.

"I have other offers from Illinois State and Western Illinois. I just got an offer from Northern Illinois this past Saturday. I think Southern Illinois will probably offer me, but I haven't talked to the coach in a long while."

Illinois may have offered just in time because Heitz would like to end his recruitment prior to his senior season.

"I'd like to get it over before the season so it'll probably be pretty quick, and it would be safe to assume that Illinois is the leader. My family and I might take visits during the season. We will definitely hit up a game at Illinois, and I only live 20 minutes from Western Illinois so I might go and see a game of theirs."

The 6'-6", 270 pound offensive lineman recently participated in a Top Gun event where he competed against some of the best defensive linemen in the country like J.R. Ferguson and Gabe King. The stiff competition provided Heitz with a valuable learning experience.

"Oh yeah, definitely. Playing small ball, you don't see competition like that. Those guys are the best of the best. The coaching and going up against them taught me a lot of things."

While any player wishes that he could start right away in college, Heitz is comfortable with and understands that he needs to redshirt before seeing action on the college field.

"Coach (Joe) Gilbert said I would redshirt my freshman year because I'm not as big as they'd like yet. I understand that. He said that because of my height and my flexibility I'd definitely be a left tackle."

Heitz's home town had less than 800 people at the time of the 2000 census.

"Three towns make up my school, V.I.T., and I have about 30 kids in my class with about 120 kids in the school total. We co-op with another school about 15 minutes down the road to make the South Fulton Rebels, which is the school we compete as athletically. We play 1A ball , and we had about 30 kids go out for the team last year."

The experienced varsity starter will be looked upon to provide leadership for his team and to help his team have a successful season that ends with a state championship.

"Last year, we made it to the playoffs as a 6-3 team. We played Mount Olive, and they had a huge fullback that just ran over all our defenders. Towards the end of the game, we just couldn't stop them and lost a close, hard game.

"I think we should be really good this year. We should be able to go 9-0. We've got everyone back. The four of us who are returning on the offensive line are going into our 3rd year starting on varsity. We only had 4 or 5 seniors last year, and we had a big junior class so we should be good."

Football is a team game, but Heitz has some personal goals as well.

"I've never made All-State yet, and I'm really shooting for that this year. For some reason, I've never gotten All-Conference as an offensive lineman, but I've gotten that award as a defensive lineman. I led our team in tackles last year as a defensive end."

Heitz already has an idea of what major he would like to pursue in college.

"We're farmers down here, so most likely I want to do something with agriculture, and I've also wanted to do engineering."

It won't be easy for a small town football player to excel at the major college level, but Heitz appears on the brink of getting that opportunity. If he succeeds, it will encourage other young athletes to work hard in pursuit of their dreams.

Heitz reports a 24 on his ACT.

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