MUNCIE - If Drue Tranquill was the “ying” to Notre Dame football Wednesday, then Bruce Heggie was the “yang.”
The Carroll High School senior joined thousands of high school athletes in enjoying, what for many will be the pinnacle of their collegiate athletic careers, in signing a National Letter of Intent. In Tranquill's case, it was to play football for the University of Notre Dame. It was a day filled with pomp and circumstance, happiness, and excitement.
For Heggie, his signing a grant in aid with Ball State earlier this week, was done to find some closure for a Fighting Irish dream that was left unfulfilled. There were no balloons floating over him or cake served during his decision-making process.
“I was looking for a place where I can contribute on Saturdays,” Heggie said.
That is the common hope of all the football players that signed their names amidst family, friends, coaches, and media Wednesday. Heggie understands that feeling all too well.
Four years ago, Heggie was recruited out of Mount Dora (Fla.) High School by recently-hired Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. Expectations were high for the 6-foot-5 defensive lineman, who also had the ability to play offensively as a tight end and lineman.
“He's a young man that has great versatility for us,” Kelly said at the time. “He's just a smart, tough football player. He's going to be a big, rangy player for us. Could play on the offensive line, could definitely play some defensive tackle for us as well.”
Heggie bounced back and forth among both lines, and ultimately played in just nine games in four years. As it turns out, the reality in college football is that a coach can't find playing time for 85 guys.
The writing was on the wall early in Heggie's career with the Irish and he began to think about a fifth and final season of competition elsewhere during his junior year. He had a friend and former teammate (Brandon Newman), that graduated from Notre Dame and played a final season with the Cardinals in 2013. It was such a positive experience for Newman that he still hasn't left the program (he is serving as a graduate assistant this year). The two Irish reserves talked about Heggie's future a lot.
“After I didn't get as much playing time this year,” Heggie explained, “and my talks with Brandon, it turned my eyes toward Ball State.”
Not only did Newman's advice play a significant role in Heggie's decision, so did the fact that Ball State offers a nationally-recognized graduate program in sales, which is Heggie's career choice (he'll graduate from Notre Dame in May).
Much like four years ago, Heggie feels an anticipation and positive aura enveloping his athletic career. He has confidence – as do the Ball State coaches – about his opportunity to help the Cardinals and he's ready to “use my athleticism, let go of the reins and just roll” defensively.
Ball State coach Pete Lembo spoke at length during a ceremony Wednesday to announce the 2014 Cardinal recruiting class, and the overriding themes for this particular group were athletic ability and leadership.
In regards to Heggie, how is this for maturity? When assessing his experience at Notre Dame, he readily admits that it didn't turn out the way that he had envisioned. However, having said that, he feels good about his overall experience with the university.
“The four years at Notre Dame, have helped me and I've matured a lot,” Heggie said. “It was a humbling experience. At my high school, I was one of the smarter students (he ranked in the top 10 of his senior class) and one of the more athletic ones. The kids that go to Notre Dame are extremely smart and the athletes that go to Notre Dame are extremely talented.
“I grew tougher mentally and physically. I really learned how to compete. Developing the intangibles that I developed here at Notre Dame is really going to help me further at Ball State and for the rest of my life in different situations.
“Life does throw various things at you, and depending on who you are as a person is how you handle them. I wouldn't take back the four years that I've had at Notre Dame for anything.”