Mount Olive (N.J.) offensive lineman Zack Heeman can thank the snow for one of the shortest summer breaks possible for a graduating senior. The hulking lineman and former basketball player will be five days into his college life before he returns to Mount Olive for graduation.
Heeman has no time off, and that is the way he likes it as an aspiring Big Ten lineman.
"I'm actually not graduating until after I get to Rutgers," Heeman said. "I don't get a vacation, and that's great. I don't need it. I want to be at Rutgers all summer. Some kids are playing basketball or track, but I'm totally focused on football and getting to Rutgers to do what I want to do."
Heeman was a three-sport athlete and 1,000-point basketball scorer in high school. As a senior, however, his focus hit solely on football. That focus, especially after signing with Rutgers, has allowed for improvements in his workout regimen.
"The biggest thing I've done is a lot of foot agility drills with some of the coaches from my high school team," Heeman said. "The main difference is in the weight room. When I'm doing all three sports all year long, it's hard to find the right amount of time in the weight room. With me now, I have about two-and-a-half months of straight lifting and strength training."
Heeman committed to Rutgers shortly after receiving an offer last spring. Football and basketball schools alike tried to get in with Heeman after his decision, but Heeman respectively declined interest.
"It came down to wanting to play for my home state, and be a Scarlet Knight," he said. "I love the coaching staff, and the family atmosphere at Rutgers. … I have friends like Noah Brown, who is going to Ohio State, and they're all going far away. I'm just thinking about how lucky I am to play close to home.
"I have all of the trust and all of the confidence in coach [Kyle] Flood that he is going to take care of me both on the field and off the field. The coaching staff that he has around him gives me all of the confidence in the world. With them close to home and everything that they offer me, it's too much to turn down. I am going to play football for a great team and also get great academics."
The 6-foot-8 tackle prospect expects to take things slowly when he enrolls at the end of June. Heeman wants the chance to play, but is more focused on personal improvement and development in camp.
"I've played high school football, so I know what it means to have to work your way up the ladder and learn and take instructions," Heeman said. "I want to be able to contribute, and if that means the scout team, then I'm going to help my teammates do as well as they can in games. It's a new experience for me. I've obviously never played college football or been in a college training camp. I'm going to take it all in and make the most out of my first year."
Offensive line coach Mitch Browning and offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen can expect someone ready to learn, Heeman said.
"The amount of experience that they bring to the table themselves along with the players themselves, I think it's a really good combination," he said. "Just for me to come in and learn from the guys like Keith Lumpkin and Chris Muller and all of those guys, that's what is going to help me the most."