Nov. 18, 2005
by Jesse Hulsing
"Loyalty means nothing unless it has at its heart the absolute principle of self-sacrifice."
Deep words from a great man. When President Woodrow Wilson made this statement, the United States was embroiled in the first World War. However, as is the case with many great quotes, its meaning can be applied in many places.
Take a walk down Montlake Boulevard, enter Bank of America Arena and walk into the football locker room. Sitting in front of the locker with the name "Heater" inscribed upon it sits a 6-foot-3, 275-pound pound rock of a man.
It could just as easily have been he to whom Woodrow Wilson was referring.
When Andy Heater was recruited by the University of Washington, he was being recruited by one of the nation's top collegiate teams.
"UW was coming off a Rose Bowl win, ranked No. 3 in the country," he recalls. "They were going to be the Pac-10 powerhouse for years to come."
A star at Snohomish (Wash.) High School, and having recently been named the top tight end in the state by several recruiting services, Heater could have gone elsewhere. Instead, though, he remained loyal to his hometown team, and to his father, Chuck -- then a UW assistant coach.
"We had just moved two years prior, when my dad had come to UW," he says. "There was no reason to leave such a good program to go pursue other options. I was looking forward to playing in front of my family."
As it turned out, both ends of that sentence would prove more difficult than he imagined.
After red-shirting his first season, Heater began to see limited minutes in 2002. The following spring, though, a torn medial collateral ligament aborted his 2003 season, and left him buried on the depth chart entering 2004.
At the same time, Washington experienced a turnover in coaching personnel, with Heater's father, Chuck, joining Urban Meyer's staff at Utah in 2004 and following Meyer to Florida in 2005.
Heater quickly found himself not playing, and without the family environment he had envisioned upon signing his letter of intent.
"I had come in as a tight end, but when I came back from my injury, we had a lot of other tight ends on the depth chart," he says. "So, I approached Coach Gilbertson and asked him if I could move to defensive end."
The move paid off for Heater, who saw action in the final nine games of the 2004 season, before another injury -- this time to his wrist -- sent him down the depth chart again. When a third coaching staff came in to start the 2005 season, Heater found yet another way onto the field -- long-snapping.
"I was happy that I could find a place where I could really help the team every week," he says.
Having endured more trials than successes in his career, some might expect that Heater would look back with bitterness at the injuries that cost him chances to earn more playing time, or at the struggles that have befallen the UW program of late.
"No way," he says. "I'm a Husky, and I'll be a Husky all of my life. I'm proud of what we have accomplished; I'm proud to be on a team that fights through adversity. I have talked to guys who have left this program to pursue other options and they just regret it. Those of us that have remained, meanwhile, have become really tight friends, Huskies for life. The first thing we said when we came in was we were never going to quit, and we've stayed true to that through all the hard times the past two years."
Having already earned his degree in law, society and justice, Heater plans to take his never-say-die attitude and willingness to persevere through adversity to the Army Rangers, one of the toughest organizations in the entire world. Ultimately, his goal is to work for the FBI or other police organizations.
For now, though, Heater has just one more chance to battle on the football field, to try and recapture the magic of seasons past and begin the rebuilding of the program to which he has remained fiercely loyal, even as nothing but troubles have befallen him since his arrival.
"Sure, it's been tough, but my buddies still come every week, regardless of what happens. They wear my old jerseys and they love it," he says. "I walk through Montlake and everybody says, `You guys are getting better, we are never going to miss a game.' That's how Husky fans are.
"When Husky Stadium is packed and everything is going right, it is the best place to be on earth."