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2015 Oakland Raiders GameDay B

Gameday feature 10 Gameday MAGAZINE Motivation can be hard to come by for most players in such a situation. A player can only run into battle so many times before defeat begins to wear on a his pride, his confidence. Somehow, Heeney seems immune to that effect. “That’s just not the kind of person that I am. I’m competitive in anything I do, whether that’s playing video games or playing sports,” Heeney said. “I hate losing. If some people on the team checked out (mentally), I just wanted people to recognize me as the best player I could be.” From the time he began his football life in the third grade, playing up with the fourth graders, people could see his potential. Heeney saw it in himself, believing even at that young age he would have a shot at stardom one day. Then in an instant, it was almost taken away. It was the summer between his sophomore and junior seasons at Hutchinson, and the team was fresh off a defeat against their main rivals, Rockhurst High School, the previous year. Heeney’s uncle drove a boat around Table Rock Lake in Missouri as Heeney trailed behind on an inner tube, when a big wave sent him tumbling into the water. As the boat circled around to pick him up, the propeller, still running, pulled him into its jaws and carved into his leg and backside, narrowly missing four major arteries in his left leg. In the hour it took Heeney to get from the water to a hospital, all he could think about was football. “I was worried I would have to sit out against Rockhurst,” Heeney said. “But I rehabbed and got back. It took six weeks, but I got back and I played in the first game (of the season). … It could have been a lot worse than it actually was, but I definitely look at life differently from that.” Through all of the adversity he faced on his road to the NFL, there are certain labels Heeney has well deserved. You can call him a fighter, a competitor, a leader. According to a web site built by University of Kansas Athletics, you could even call him “Captain”. But if you want to call him undersized for an NFL linebacker, Heeney asks that you wait long enough for him to prove you wrong. “Everyone says I’m undersized or not athletic enough to play in the NFL,” Heeney said. “It just fuels my fire. I don’t listen to it. I know what kind of player I am.” In his very first game in the Silver and Black, the Raiders’ preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams, Heeney turned some heads when he outraced Rams quarterback Case Keenum all the way to the sidelines, forcing what would be his first NFL sack. The play was just a flash of what Heeney knows are his strengths, his speed and football intellect. His uncanny ability to read plays and track down opposing playmakers seems to always put him in the vicinity of the football, something that pleases his coaches. “He flies around. He’s very, very active. I think he led the team tonight in tackles,” Head Coach Jack Del Rio said following Heeney’s NFL debut on Friday, August 14. “His speed showed up. … That’s one of the reasons we have him for.” Despite the successful debut, Heeney knows he has a long way to go before his place on the Raiders is secure. He will have to continue to work and battle for every snap and repetition. He will not have to go the path alone, as he has several veteran players, including eighth-year linebacker Curtis Lofton and Super Bowl XVIII MVP Malcolm Smith, and a number of former linebackers on the coaching staff in Del Rio and defensive coordinator Ken Norton, Jr., among others, to show him the ropes. “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing, just playing as hard as I can and keep trying to make as many plays as I can,” Heeney said. “I think the chips will fall where they’re going to fall. I just have to be the type of player that I know I am.”


2015 Oakland Raiders GameDay B
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