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2015 Oakland Raiders GameDay B

Gameday Feature A Clean Slate Ben Heeney Embraces the Heat of Competition At training camps all around the NFL, the theme of competition resonates as loudly as the first pops of the pads as rookies and veterans alike set out to prove themselves once again. For all players in the league, summer means a clean slate and new opportunity, and for many others, new fan bases, teammates and coaches for whom they must prove themselves worthy. For those who are able to distinguish themselves, confidence is often a key factor. Some rookies enter the league with a leg up in that department. It is easy to carry oneself with pride immediately following a national championship, or perhaps a major conference title, but what is to be expected of a draftee who has tasted victory only nine times in his four-year collegiate career? Linebacker Ben Heeney, the Raiders’ first of two fifthround picks (140th overall) in the 2015 NFL Draft, found himself in a difficult spot soon after signing up to play football at his dream school, Kansas. His father and two uncles played baseball there, and his mother was a Jayhawk as well. When Heeney was offered a scholarship coming out of Hutchinson (Kan.) High School, following in his family’s footsteps was an easy decision. “When I got the offer, I just committed on the spot,” Heeney said. “I didn’t consider anywhere else, because I grew up a Jayhawk fan. That was basically a dream school.” His highly decorated career at Kansas, which includes two second-team All-Big 12 honors and firstteam recognition as a senior in 2014, turned out to be a challenge. Three different head coaches, three defensive coordinators and three different position coaches kept the Jayhawks in a constant state of flux, or as Heeney puts it, the team was “just a big mess”. Nevertheless, Heeney excelled as the team’s middle linebacker. He posted a pair of 100-tackle seasons, with at least 50 solo tackles in each of his last three. He led the Big 12 with 88 solo stops as a senior and ranks eighth in school history with 335 career tackles. Even as Heeney, the team’s middle linebacker, excelled on the field as one of college football’s most prolific tacklers, the team struggled to find solid ground. Gameday MAGAZINE 9 By Adam Klionsky


2015 Oakland Raiders GameDay B
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