PREP FOOTBALL ’94: FREEWAY LEAGUE : Troy’s Heaton Has That Killer Instinct : Football: The thrill of the hit is the fun part for defensive end, who hopes to lead team to another league title.
After talking with Troy defensive end Willie Heaton, one would think he was fresh off the set of the latest Oliver Stone film, “Natural Born Killers.” But don’t be alarmed. The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder saves his killing instincts for the playing field.
“I like to hit people,” Heaton said. “Playing football, especially defense, is a completely different mentality than other sports. It’s a team effort, but to go one-on-one and make a good hit, that’s the fun part.”
Heaton, 17, a senior who was a first-team All-Freeway League selection last year, is counting the hours before he can start the mayhem and chaos. During the off-season he has been busy preparing. Like working on his speed--he was clocked last spring at 5.0 in the 40-yard dash--and lifting weights. Heaton is bench-pressing 315 pounds.
“I’ve been doing a lot of stuff for my speed, and I’ve put on weight, which I think will help me at the position,” he said.
Coach John Turek called Heaton one of his key players on defense and thinks he will have a great year. “Willie has set his goals high and he wants to continue to play in college,” Turek said. “He’s put on 25 to 30 pounds during the off-season and he has increased his strength tremendously.”
Turek added that Heaton worked out with sprinters on the track team last spring to help increase his speed. “He was out there every day working with the sprinters. He is very motivated to have a good year and he has worked hard.3
As a sophomore, Heaton played linebacker and had a lot of fun at the position. But he’s having the time of his life since becoming a defensive end.
“There’s a lot of freedom at this position. And I get to go head-to-head with someone every game and battle it out,” he said. “At the end of the game we shake hands and we’re friends.”
Heaton said football helps him release his energy and aggression. And after a hard day at school, he said there is no better way to relieve the tension than contact.
With a 3.4 grade-point average and courses in honors physics and trigonometry, it’s easy to see why Heaton becomes frustrated with those who may stereotype him as a “dumb football player.”
“Academics have always been on top; sports is secondary,” he said. “I don’t understand people like that (who stereotype). They make judgments about all football players. It bothers me.”
But at the moment, he has no time to bother with what people think of him. For Heaton, his focus is on the upcoming season. He thinks the Warriors have a good group of guys, a lot of returning players and lots of drive and spirit.
Heaton has the interest of Colorado and Arizona State. Those are great schools, he said, but if he had his druthers, he would go to West Point. “That’s where I would like to go, and I’m preparing now to see if I can.”
Heaton, who lives with his father, Bill, said his dad’s attitude about football has been a big factor in his love of the game.
“I’ve seen fathers . . . who make their sons dread playing the game,” Heaton said. “My dad is not like that. He doesn’t pressure me. He tells me if you don’t play football that’s OK. And that has been my philosophy pretty much throughout my playing career.”
While Heaton loves the game and is looking forward to playing in college if he gets the chance, he has no illusions about making it to the NFL.
“I really have a lot of fun playing the game,” Heaton said. “But when it’s time to move on, I won’t have a problem with that.”