Illini Harvesting Talent Out Of Farm Country

It can be tough for small school athletes to get recognition for their play. They often toil in obscurity, especially if they do not reside near large media centers. Such is the case for Illini football commitment Michael Heitz. He plays for South Fulton in Western Illinois against a Class 1A schedule. Fortunately, Illinois saw him in a summer camp and knows he can play.

Michael Heitz impressed Illinois coaches this summer and earned a scholarship offer. This was in spite of the fact he had just finished 120 hours of work helping his dad plant the crops for 2009.

It is fortunate that he decided to attend the camp as his South Fulton team is struggling this year.

"We're not doing very well. We're 2-3. We've had a lot of injuries. If we could just stay healthy, we could be really good. But we just have to battle the injuries."

Heitz is a man of few words, but it appears he is continuing to improve his game.

"I'm doing really good. I've definitely been improving."

The 6'-6", 270 pounder was recruited as a left tackle prospect, but he is much more important to his high school team than that.

"I play every play except kickoff. I'm playing d-end on defense. I led the team in tackles for the first three or four games."

It is almost impossible to gain weight during the season, but Heitz is trying.

"I'm pretty much staying the same. I'm trying to put on a little weight. I've been working real hard on it."

Coming from a farm family, Heitz has more responsibilities than many high school student athletes. The wet spring forced farmers to delay planting their corn and beans, which delays the harvest as well. In most years, the crops would be out of the field by now, but not this year.

"It's definitely a late harvest."

When the crops are dry enough to harvest, Heitz's dad will be working feverishly to get them to the elevators before the weather turns bad. He will have only periodic help from his son.

"I'll just be in the fields Saturdays and Sundays. During the week, I'll be playing football. But on the weekends I'll help."

The harvest may also delay any visitation Heitz makes to the Illinois campus. But he is a firm commitment and is looking forward to the challenges ahead.

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