Report from NFL Scouting Services' Dave-Te' Thomas:
Imagine the look on a National Hockey League goalie’s face if the 252-pound Buckeyes tight end had actually continued pursuing his true passion – in the hockey rink, rather than on the football field. While most youngsters in the northern states might have competed in the sport, a hockey player from Naples, Florida is not actually where a pro scout might venture to see him play.
he tight end would be the first to agree with that assessment - Southwest Florida might be one of the last places you would think to look if searching for talented hockey players was the objective. For a young Heuerman, though, the decision was easy. Hockey was the sport he loved, so he was going to participate – even if it was 80 degrees on New Year’s Day and a pond in Naples, Florida, had never frozen over.
As an accomplished junior player, Heuerman was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: a spot on the nationally acclaimed Detroit Compuware team. He accepted. The team was founded by Carolina Hurricanes owner and Compuware executive chairman Peter Karmanos Jr. It’s produced such stars as Eric Lindros and current Columbus Blue Jacket Jack Johnson. Heuerman’s roommate on the team, Austin Watson, was drafted 18th overall by the Nashville Predators in the 2010 NHL Draft.
Heuerman was a center and forward before moving to right wing for Compuware. A career in professional hockey may have been on the horizon had Heuerman stuck with the sport. Hoisting Stanley Cups for the Detroit Red Wings, rather than crystal footballs for the Ohio State Buckeyes, was Heuerman’s dream. Instead of emulating Archie Griffin, Cris Carter and Andy Katzenmoyer, he was skating in ice rinks with visions of Brendan Shanahan, Steve Yzerman and Mike Modano.
Heuerman accepted a scholarship offer to join the Ohio State program. He turned down similar offers from Purdue, West Virginia, Michigan State, Boston College, Kentucky, Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Florida International and Memphis. He enrolled in school in January, 2011, in time to compete during spring drills. He appeared in ten games as a true freshman, eight coming on offense, but did not catch his first pass (25 yards) until he appeared in the Gator Bowl vs. Florida.
As a sophomore, Heuerman started nine of the twelve games he appeared in. He tallied eight receptions for 94 yards, including recording his first career touchdown, an 18-yarder in the Nebraska clash. His junior season was his finest as a receiver, catching 26-of-36 targeted tosses, gaining 466 yards (17.9 ypc) and reaching the end zone four times. For his performance, he received All-Big Ten Conference honorable mention.
As a senior, Heuerman started all fourteen games, but saw his opportunities as a receiver greatly reduced. After being targeted a career-high 36 times as a junior, only 26 tosses came his way in 2014. He made 17 catches, piling up 207 yards, as he added a pair of touchdowns for a unit that captured the national championship.
Heuerman is never going to be confused for Dave Casper (former Raiders great), but there is a bit of Mark Bavaro (former Giants great) in him with his “search and destroy” blocking style. He is never going to be anything more than a second- or third option for a quarter-back in a passing game, even though he pulled in 52 balls for 792 yards and seven touch-downs in four seasons. He is exactly what the young OSU passers needed this year – an outstanding blocker, a safety valve receiver and also the unquestioned offensive leader.
Ohio State strength coach Mickey Marotti calls the tight end the "ringleader of what we want in terms of work ethic." The owner of a team-best 33 bench press reps of 225 pounds and with the second highest vertical leap - 36.5 inches - on the team, Heuerman is a talented athlete from a house full of talented athletes (father, Paul, was a basketball captain at Michigan and brother, Mike, is a sophomore tight end at Notre Dame).
Heuerman missed most of 2014 spring drills with two injuries - broken nose and mid-foot sprain - but that isn't a concern. The senior might not be used much as a receiver, but those scouts who attended practices noticed that he runs disciplined routes, finds his marks, breaks cleanly and gets his head turned around in time to look the ball in. He is a big target over the middle and has a feel for coverage, doing a nice job of getting open in time for the quarterback to get the ball to him. He makes good body adjustments to the ball in flight and has the ability to uncover.
Jeff Heuerman NFL Scouting Combine measurables
33 1/4-inch arm length
10 1/8-inch hands
Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.
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