Kansas Jayhawk Ben Heeney: constant bright spot on a losing team


When many people think of Kansas football, they think of the past five years and how the Jayhawks have won just two conference games. They look at how the team hasn’t won on the road since 2010. They look at all the different quarterbacks that have started and failed. They seem to forget about one man: Ben Heeney. The senior linebacker from Hutchinson, Kan. has seen it all.

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He committed to Kansas on October 23, 2010, during the first year of Turner Gill’s short lived era. He had offers from both Kansas and Colorado State, but was also interested in Kansas State, Oklahoma and TCU. Since Heeney’s freshman year of college, all the schools he didn’t choose have better overall records than Kansas.

"Colorado State: 3-9, 4-8, 8-6, 6-1: 21-25Kansas State: 10-3, 11-2, 8-5, 5-1: 34-11Oklahoma: 10-3, 10-3, 11-2, 5-2: 36-10 Oct 4, 2014; Morgantown, WV, USA; Kansas Jayhawks linebacker Ben Heeney (31) drops into pass coverage against the West Virginia Mountaineers during the second quarter at Milan Puskar Stadium. The Mountaineers won 33-14. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportsTCU: 11-2, 7-6, 4-8, 5-1: 27-17 Kansas: 2-10, 1-11, 3-9, 2-5: 8-34"

Of course you have no idea what’s going to happen when you go somewhere.

Heeney has played for three different head coaches. He played for Turner Gill his freshman year, Charlie Weis for his sophomore, junior, and into his senior year and Clint Bowen for the majority of his senior year. Even under times of uncertainty, Heeney has pulled through and overcame that adversity. In the four years Heeney has been at Kansas, the team hasn’t won on the road. Heeney has been a part of two conference wins.

All of those losses have been far from Heeney’s fault.

In Heeney’s freshman year he played in all 12 games, but didn’t rack up many minutes. He had eight tackles on the season.

The next season is when Heeney broke out. His sophomore season, Heeney amassed 112 tackles, 11.5 of which were for loss. He knocked out two sacks, forced one fumble and was credited with two passes defended. He was on the end of the year Big 12 lists for several categories. Heeney was third in assisted tackles (43), fourth for total tackles (112), seventh in solo tackles (69) and seventh in tackles for loss (12).

Heeney didn’t have as many tackles his junior season, but still put up impressive numbers. He had 87 total tackles (55 solo, 32 assisted). He had 11.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, two passes defended and three interceptions. Heeney was eighth on the Big 12 list for interceptions at the end of the season.

Sep 20, 2014; Lawrence, KS, USA; Central Michigan Chippewas quarterback Cooper Rush (10) throws a pass while being hit by Kansas Jayhawks linebacker Ben Heeney (31) in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

2014 has been Heeney’s year. With five games left in the season, he has recorded 84 solo tackles, just three shy of what he had all season his junior year. Of those 84 tackles, Heeney completed 58 of them on his own and assisted for 26. At the conclusion of Week 9, Heeney was sitting first in the nation in solo tackles (58) and third in the nation with total tackles (84). He’s leading the Big 12 in total tackles. Heeney has two sacks, one interception and one forced fumble on the year.

His biggest game came in Week 9 of his senior season where he had 21 tackles and one interception return for 36 yards against Texas Tech.

Even though Heeney was within four tackles of the Kansas record and five tackles within the NCAA record, he didn’t feel it was a performance worth celebrating.

“I had a lot of tackles, but we lost,” Heeney said after the Texas Tech game. “We thought we had a good chance to win this game.”

Everyone else though, they recognized the tremendous effort he put in to the game.

“He’s obviously a special player,” Bowen said of Heeney. “He had an unbelievable performance… True leader of our team.”

Not just the coach realizes how special of a player Heeney is. Guys on the other side of the ball see it too.

“Ben’s a special guy, on and off the field,” quarterback Mike Cummings said.