Originally published August 24, 2009 at 12:00a.m., updated August 24, 2009 at 04:05p.m.


Walk-on deserves credit


Reporters crowded around Todd Reesing at the annual Kansas University football Media Day. Ditto for Kerry Meier, Darrell Stuckey and Jake Sharp. They’re men in demand. Inquiring minds want to know what they think about this upcoming season full of promise, this additional proof that Kansas is so much more than a basketball school now.

And then there is sophomore Chris Heinz. He wasn’t in attendance. Nobody requested him. Nobody ever will. If Kerry Meier is Russell Crowe, Chris Heinz is the extra crossing the street. Heinz is a preferred walk-on, invited to play football at Kansas, but not granted a scholarship.

Nobody ever will write a screen play about Heinz because “Rudy” already has been made, and one film on a walk-on football player suffices until the end of time.

Heinz never has been on the field for a play during a Kansas football game, yet he’s an important part of his school’s team. Every teammate was reminded of that when they walked into the locker room for a week last season. His picture was on display along with the rest of the weekly honorees after the Sam Houston State game in 2008. Heinz was named scout team defensive player of the week for mimicking SHSU’s middle linebacker so well.

“Seeing that, it makes you want to work for it again,” Heinz said of his picture being displayed in the locker room.

It’s not his sole motivation. He thinks he could make a decent wedge buster on the kickoff team, so he strives to get onto the depth chart. In high school, he said, he was on the field for every play on offense, defense and special teams.

“When the wedges form, you go blow up as many guys as you can,” he said, then shared what else he liked so much about filling the wedge-buster role.

“Just that feeling you get, just that rush. During the week, you build up all this anger, and it’s just good to let it loose.”

It hit a little closer to home for Heinz when 101⁄2 years ago a pair of teenagers chose a far more destructive way to unleash anger. Heinz is from Littleton, Colo., a town that gained infamy with the shootings at nearby Columbine High. His elementary school was on break when the tragedy occurred, and he heard of it on the golf course, when his mother received a call from a friend. They immediately packed their clubs into the car and drove home.

“I watched it on TV that day until I went to bed,” Heinz remembered. “It was intense. I was just so shocked something like that could happen so close to home. ... I played basketball against Columbine a lot, and it was just so spooky when you’d walk down the hallways at Columbine. After that happened, we did a bunch of lock-down drills in school. We would turn off the lights, and we had to sit on the ground, and for a half hour nobody would say a word.”

He prepared for something he never had to experience, fortunately. Every day in practice, he prepares for an opportunity that might never come.

“I love the competition,” said Heinz, who has a brother who played football at Northwestern, another at Tulsa.

Competing daily in practice is what makes football teams better. Heinz and the rest of the walk-ons deserve credit for making Kansas football better.

• A previous version of this story contained an incorrect opponent. The KU football team defeated Sam Houston State in 2008.


gardenjay 12 years, 5 months ago

Consider this recent information concerning Kansas and football:

Kansas State redshirt freshman quarterback Joseph Kassanavoid was arrested Thursday night on domestic battery charges after an incident at his apartment in Manhattan, Kan.

Aqib Talib's current troubles.

And in this article, "During the week, you build up all this anger, and it’s just good to let it loose.”


boomrsoonr26 12 years, 5 months ago

Hmm what? I have no idea where your going with "Hmm".

Rivethead 12 years, 5 months ago

Keegan what team are you talking about? We didn't play Stephen F. Austin in 2008.........

Kman_blue 12 years, 5 months ago

Stephen F. Austin...Sam Houston's all the same...they're both in Texas and named after some cartoon character (or real guys, who knows?) with cities named after them...and neither is located in the city that is named after the guy which they're named after...hhmmm...or maybe it was just Keegan and his well known drug problem rearing its ugly head again? Put down the pipe man! Put down the pipe!

In case you couldn't tell, I'm just joking! It's kind of an easy slip up to make. Maybe Keegan was just a bit too tired when he wrote this one?

MinnesotaJay 12 years, 5 months ago

Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin were both bona fide heroes and great leaders in Texas history. But, whatever. it could have been the fictional Sam Houston Institute of Technology (S.H.I.T.). Sincerely, hat's off to the KU walk-ons.

gardenjay 12 years, 5 months ago

Sorry boomrsoonr26,

My post does look skeletal up there.

How about this: I have always been interested in learning more about a subset of football fans, the ones that have plently of fan obsession and approval with football player aggression on the field, but become turncoats when it comes to not taking responsibility for their football players when they have character issues off the field. It is these fans that can seem ignorant and hypocritical to me. If one is a football fan, one must understand the consequences of the behavior one is endorsing. That is, take responsibility as fans.

For example, Aqib Talib was better than sliced bread at KU - if you've read some of the postings after the recent LJW article about his current troubles, you will note some fans that are quick to slam him, yet they in theory were football fans that supported his aggression at KU in order to win games. He risked life-long injuries to please these fans and his team (e.g. that famous 'finger in a light-socket' catch).

Perhaps what he did off the field was wrong, though I certainly do not believe headlines anymore. If so though, then we are all partly responsible. The only way we would not be partly responsible is if we were cheering him on during some hypothetical (and probably uninteresting) sport that worked against aggression, and then he went out and behaved inappropriately.

My ideal fan response in this situation reads: "Aqib, we are sorry for our part in celebrating the aggressive side of you, if you actually did do anything wrong. We realize that you may not have done anything wrong, because as KU fans we are not greenhorns, in that we already know the media, fame and attorneys are a bad mix designed to not really help you. We are completely aware that truth actually does fly out the window in front of this mix. We also know that just the media and attorneys alone are a bad mix. We expect you to get a good attorney to keep things sane for you in this matter, and we expect that this attorney will take a lot of money from you, and this makes us sad too. We support you getting some help for all the trouble this caused you, and you are always welcome to come back home".

Kman_blue 12 years, 5 months ago

MinnesotaJay, did you miss the part where I said I was joking??

Kman_blue 12 years, 5 months ago


Are you seriously presupposing that there's no difference between aggression on the field and off the field? That's kind of like arguing that the vast majority of people don't know the difference between violence in a video game and in the real world. It's just down right silly and inane.

John Randall 12 years, 5 months ago

""Are you seriously presupposing that there's no difference between aggression on the field and off the field? That's kind of like arguing that the vast majority of people don't know the difference between violence in a video game and in the real world. It's just down right silly and inane.""

You're claiming this difference means aggression on/off the field are totally unrelated?

The fact is, it is remarkable that the vast majority of players can and do exert their will to control themselves in social situations. That a few cannot is just the poor excuse our media uses to titillate the masses and denigrate the much greater number who do exert self control.

Kman_blue 12 years, 5 months ago

You certainly have to have the ability to be aggressive within you somewhere to bring it out on the football field, but trying to argue that that's one in the same as inappropriate aggression off the field is just nonsensical. I can't speak for anyone else's experiences, but me and most all of the players I knew/know had no problem in acting accordingly on and off the field in this regard.

It's the same as you act differently out on the town with your friends versus how you act at work in a meeting or in class. The inability to differentiate between what's acceptable one place and not in another place is something completely unrelated to football or football players and aggression in general. It's usually a symptom of a mental disorder or substance abuse problem. You can argue that a higher percentage of football players have substance abuse problems or mental disorders than the general public, but that still doesn't make on field aggression and inappropriate off field aggression the same.

hawk316 12 years, 5 months ago

Good article. Thanks, Tom, for highlighting the unsung kids like Heinz who work their butts off to try to help their team any way they can. They're not the "stars," but they still play an important role in the overall success of the team. Here's hoping that this young man has an opportunity to contribute on the field this year.

gardenjay 12 years, 5 months ago

I do not believe I said there was no difference between on and off the field. It is an interesting discussion which now needs some data.

I respectfully disagree with you Kman_blue, but if you provide some supporting statistics I can be see me in KU62's camp.

I really appreciate all of you having an intelligent discussion - cool, more soon.

MinnesotaJay 12 years, 5 months ago


No, I didn't miss that you were joking. But, not everybody is up on their Texas history, and I tried to show some agreement in that, even knowing, it wouldn't really matter.

I hope it didn't come across that I was taking you to task. Sure didn't mean to come across that way.

gardenjay 12 years, 5 months ago

Kman_blue has a point, although more study is needed! I found this interesting study entitled "Self-reported Hostile Aggression in Contact Athletes, No Contact Athletes and Non-athletes" by Patrice Lemieux, Stuart J. McKelvie and Dale Stout, Department of Psychology, Bishop's University.

They basically blame the media for a false image of athletes. They do not find a significant correlation between on- and off-the-field aggression, except for the fact that more capable aggressors (bigger people) tend to have more off-field aggression. Still, that really is not football's issue. They also state that the media controls our image of athletes as drunken sailors basically - take note LJW - which I complain about per Aqib Talib. Here is their conclusion:

"Scores on the aggression questionnaire (reflecting general levels of aggressive behavior and feelings), reported incidents of actual fighting, and reported frequency of alcohol involvement in fighting, were all higher contact than for no contact athletes. However, these differences also occurred with matched control groups of non-athletes, indicating that they were a function of physical stature rather than type of sport Overall, there was no support for the learning or catharsis theories of aggression in sport, although they are consistent with the idea that size is a factor in the selection of contact athletes. Together with the fact that alcohol was stated to be a factor in fighting less often for athletes than for non-athletes, the results undermine the media image of the aggressive, drunken athlete, at least for university students.

  Future research should obtain systematic information about off-field aggression in athletes at various levels of expertise in various events, perhaps comparing team vs. individual as well as contact vs. no contact sports. Because the media has profiled cases of aggression in professional athletes, this group is of particular interest. Given that the present matching technique was successful in revealing the relationship between size and aggression, it should be employed to control for physical variables and others such as social background and level of education."

Kman_blue 12 years, 5 months ago


No, I just thought I had offended you with my joke, so was trying to emphasize I was joking. Well done, you're right a lot of people don't know the history behind those 2 guys and a lot of other things.

Kman_blue 12 years, 5 months ago


Good find. Probably bores the heck out of people not interested, but I found it interesting to read. I never thought much about the size correlation before.

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