Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney was a Big 12 first team selection in 2014, and second team in 2013 and 2012, yet he is still not being talked about much as we near the 2015 NFL draft.
Heeney had a terrific career at Kansas, compiling 335 total tackles and 35.5 for a loss, but scouts never saw him as very athletic or fast. Heeney proved them all wrong during the combine last month by ranking at the top of all linebackers in all of the agility drills. He also ran a 4.59 40-yard dash which turned some heads.
“I don’t know what the reason behind it is, but I think hopefully [my combine performance] just shows scouts I’m athletic, I’ve got good burst and change-of-direction,” Heeney told Bleacher Report. “My numbers speak for themselves: I’m very quick, I’m explosive, I’m a sideline-to-sideline guy.”
Kansas assistant coach and defensive coordinator Clint Bowen also believes Heeney is a lot better than people give him credit for.
“He’s just a lot better pure athlete than people have ever given him credit for,” Bowen said. “I sang that song all season. Everyone was trying to say that he was an old-school, throwback Mike linebacker and I was like ‘No, he’s not.’ He’s a modern-day, fast, athletic linebacker, and everyone wanted to compare him to something that he wasn’t.”
Part of the reason for flying under the radar is because Kansas only won nine of Heeney’s 48 games played in Lawrence. But that never stopped Heeney from playing hard and preparing even harder.
“There’s a lot of kids that, and a lot of people, that will accept losing,” Bowen said. “And when you’re losing, the guys that are on the edge, it pushes them over the edge to where losing is OK and excuse-making becomes OK, whereas you have a handful of guys like Ben Heeney that they’re never going to accept that. They’re never going to accept getting beat and they’re a rare breed, but it’s extremely difficult.”
Heeney enjoyed his time with the Jayhawks but is not ready to hear his name being called in the draft set to start April 30.
“I love the school, I love my teammates and all that stuff, but I didn’t really reap many benefits from my success personally while being here just because our team struggled so much,” Heeney said. “I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything, I love my teammates and everyone I’ve met down here, but I’m definitely ready to take the next step in my career.”