Matt Heitzmann’s father, Larry, had his eldest son pegged for the gridiron. A high school football star himself, he envisioned Matt as the starting quarterback for powerhouse River Hill High School (Columbia, Md.), the proverbial big man on campus so to speak.
Problem was, Heitzmann never really hit a growth spurt until his sophomore year at River Hill, and it’s tough to sit under center when you’re only about 5-feet-6.
“I was always smaller than everyone else growing up. I was just too small for football,” Heitzmann said. “But I was good at soccer right away. Like I started playing when I was four years old, and from age four to about six I just did really well at soccer. So football kind of got shoved to the side, and instead my dad decided to push me in soccer instead. He got me like the best coaches around when I was younger, and it really worked out well.”
Heitzmann can say that again. Not only did he develop into a star midfielder in Howard County, but he eventually earned a Division I scholarship from the University of Maryland, committing April 10, 2015.
“When I was growing up it was always a dream of mine to play big-time college soccer, but, honestly, I matured late,” said Heitzmann, who is now about 5-10. “Until a couple years ago I didn’t think it would come to reality, just because I was small. But by my sophomore year I started to grow physically and I ended up making all-County at River Hill, and that’s when I kind of knew I could compete at the highest levels [of college soccer]. Then last year, my junior year I made all-South Region, and that’s when I was like, OK, I can definitely do this.”
Heitzmann, who scored 12 goals and recorded five assists his junior season, started opening the eyes of college recruiters with a standout showing in the class 3A playoffs last year.
During the state semifinals against C. Milton Wright (Bel Air, Md.), Heitzmann broke a 0-0 tie and scored the game-winning goal with around 15 minutes left in the second half. Starting about 35 yards from the opponent’s goal following a foul, Heitzmann bent a kick around a wall of defenders, the ball shooting into the top left corner of the net.
Then, during the finals, Heitzmann helped River Hill win the state title and finish 18-0-1 by recording the game-winning assist.
“To tell you the truth [recruiting] had been going pretty slow until just recently. But then Bucknell and Cornell, they offered me [financial aid packages], and then I visited Maryland over my spring break,” Heitzmann explained. “I had sent [the Maryland coaches] an e-mail, and that’s how I initially made contact, so I wasn’t expecting anything big when I went there. But then Coach Sasho [Cirovski] said I’d be a great fit and he liked my skills. I went home and talked to my parents that night, and I decided to commit. It all happened so quickly; it was a whirlwind.”
Heitzmann said his decision was relatively easy. After all, he grew up attending Maryland soccer games and already knew multiple players in the program, including a couple who are close friends, Connor Smith and George Campbell. In fact, Heitzmann and Smith, who attended McDonogh (Owings Mills, Md.), live down the street from one another and they played on the same club team up until the fifth grade.
On top of that, Heitzmann knows Terps assistant Jake Pace, a former River Hill standout who won two titles in high school.
“Maryland is the school I grew up with, so it was a pretty big honor to get the opportunity to play there,” Heitzmann said. “It’s a top 20 program, one of the best programs out there right now, the coaches there are really great, and I have so many connections up there. So I just can’t wait to get up there and hopefully represent River Hill well and represent the university well.”
Heitzmann said he still need to develop physically, hitting the weight room in earnest. But, skill-wise, he believes he can compete with Maryland’s foes.
“I see the field well, I have a high soccer IQ, and I anticipate well and can see opportunities before they happen,” Heitzmann said. “The main thing for me I just getting bigger to compete with those kids in college.”
Now, the immediate goal is to win a second straight state title at River Hill. But after that, Heitzmann wants to help Maryland reach that level as well.
“After winning at River Hill and tasting that success, I’d love to continue that at Maryland,” said Heitzmann, who wants to major in business administration. “To be able to do that for my hometown school, the school I grew up with, that would be awesome.”
Heitzmann Thrilled To Represent Hometown School
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