"He is one of the most well-rounded players and athletes that I've seen," said Amil, who coaches the wide receivers and defensive backs at Cardinal Mooney High School. "He has the body to play Division I now, and he runs the 40 in the low 4.4s, and he can jump out of the gym. We move him from quarterback to wide receiver to tailback to take advantage of his skills, and he had more than 1,000 all-purpose yards and was an all-state pick as a defensive back last year. That shows his versatility."
Amil, who was a standout player himself at Cardinal Mooney, has seen many of Ohio's best players during his playing and coaching career, and stresses that finding the right fit for a player is key to his success in college. In that regard, he believes that Heard's skill set is an excellent match for West Virginia.
"With that open system West Virginia [plays on offense] he fit right in. He's scary, elusive and explosive, especially in the open field. He reminds me of a sports car our there. If you think you have him, he has the power to break arm tackles, and the speed to run away. He can put a shoulder down and get after you, and he can outrun you. I'm not sure how big he is, but watching Noel Devine play, he's like Noel as far as running the ball is concerned."
Amil's insistence on finding the right fit for players isn't merely a cliché. It's part of the ethos at Cardinal Mooney, which routinely sends players to Division I schools.
"Finding the right fit is really important. We stress that to our guys," Amil explained. "We want them to look at academics as well as the football side. We encourage them to find a place where they can be successful in school and after school. We want our players to go somewhere where they fit and have a chance to play and to succeed."
Part of that comfort process revolved around learning more about West Virginia, and Amil was happy with the information he received from WVU's coaches.
"Coach Mullen and I talked several times. We had the chance to talk about academics, and about what their plans were for him on the field too. At some schools, you get there and you are on your own .I wanted to be sure the support staff was in place at West Virginia, and in the end I felt very comfortable and confident with what Coach Mullen had to say."
All that contributed to Heard's selection of West Virginia, which runs a similar offense to that of Cardinal Mooney. Before making his choice, however, he discussed everything with Amil, other coaches on the Mooney staff, and with his family.
"I started coaching him when he was six," Amil said. "I started out coaching in peewee leagues, and then I had the chance to go to Mooney. He decided to come here, so I have known him and been close to him for a long time. During the recruiting process we made a list of pros and cons about each school, and he talked them over with his mom and some others. When he narrowed it down to Penn State and West Virginia, he told me that he liked being around the players and coaches at West Virginia, and that's where he decided to go. But he didn't rush it. He probably took about a month to make the decision."
Heard is not an outspoken person, and Amil sees that carry over to his leadership style and relationships with teammates.
"He is a quiet guy. His leadership is more by example. He's one of the first guys in the weight room and one of the last guys out, and every drill and sprint it goes at it all out. But this probably explains it best, We had a team that graduated in 2007 with a bunch of good guys on it, and a lot of them went on to big schools. Still, as a sophomore, he earned his way into the starting lineup. He was just too good to keep off the field. And he learned from those guys about leadership, and he has learned to take on that role. He will get on you and push you if you need it, but the biggest thing is that people have seen his success, and learned from him by example."
Braylon Heard Profile