Of course, no one was going to tell the loquacious tight end, who in many ways was the spirit and soul and attitude of the Ohio State offense, that was the case.
“It was pretty tough,” he said Thursday at the NFL combine. “A lot of doctors said I shouldn't have played. But it was the national championship game in your senior year. You're not going to not play. I had some assistance, I guess you could say, in dealing with some of the pain. But it was good. It turned out all well and won the national championship. You can't ask for anything better than that.”
It was a fitting end for Heuerman, who never shied away from a microphone or a battle in his Ohio State career. The tight end was an obvious choice as a captain as a senior as he had always been one of the faces of the Buckeyes’ 2011 recruiting class, arriving early that year before living through the disaster that was his 6-7 freshman campaign.
He then was a key contributor from his sophomore year on, helping Ohio State go 38-3 in that time. There was a school-record 24-game winning streak and the program’s first national championship in 12 years, which was capped with season-ending wins vs. Alabama and Oregon in the College Football Playoff.
But Heuerman suffered an ankle injury early in the win vs. the Crimson Tide, continuing what was an injury-plagued final season. He missed the first game while continuing to rehab a foot injury suffered in spring, and he was limited throughout the beginning of the campaign.
He ended up splitting time with Nick Vannett, a junior, through most of the year, catching 17 passes for 207 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It wasn’t quite the production he was capable of if the injury bug hadn’t hit – especially after he caught 26 passes for 466 yards and four TDs as a junior – but he likely wouldn’t trade his rings for the world.
Of course, now Heuerman must translate his skills to the professional realm. Injuries or not, 43 catches in 29 games over his final two years in college won’t exactly turn heads at the NFL level, especially because he still continues to fight the ill effects of that ankle injury and won’t run at the combine, waiting instead to do so at Ohio State’s March 13 Pro Day.
Still, he thinks he can show NFL teams that he’s a complete tight end, one who can block and catch passes with equal aplomb.
“I can do it all. It's on film,” said Heuerman, who did 26 bench press reps at the combine to tie for second among tight ends. “I did a lot of things in college, especially playing in Coach Meyer's offense. As a tight end you get to do everything. So I've shown everything on film and these coaches have seen that. I'm fortunate.”
Scout’s mock draft muncher, which averages out a number of mock drafts from around the Internet, sees Heuerman as a potential third-round pick, though he is in a pool of players who could go anywhere from the second round to outside the top 100.
Still, Heuerman showed a number of things during his tenure as a Buckeye. The 6-5, 254-pounder showed he can dependably catch the ball, block with the best players at his position and also serve as a leader and a passionate player who makes those around him better.
That’s what he hopes to show as he finishes up his time at the combine, at which he’s already met with New England and Green Bay.
“Probably just a smart, tough football player,” he said. “That's kind of what I've been talking about this week. I can do it all, be an every-down tight end. I see so many guys who only catch balls, they only block. I kind of pride myself on doing it all.”