Our seats were on the north end of DKR, about midway up, diagonal to the back northwest corner of the end zone. It was September of 2015, a night game, and my son Miles and I were thrilled with the view. He had just turned 12.
Before this game against California, we had only been to blowouts, so he had never truly heard an electric DKR before. But this night was different; this was the night Jerrod Heard’s grandkids will hear about someday. Oh, and it will be quite a story.
Heard was the Texas quarterback, a freshman state champion from Denton with a big smile, a joyful countenance and jet packs in his shoes. He was a winner, a leader; he was Vince Young Lite. He threw or ran for 527 total yards that night, surpassing a record set by VY in the national championship game against another team from California.
His coach, Charlie Strong, went to sleep with visions of championships later that night. He slept good, a good rest that comes to a coach who knows who is quarterback is going to be for the next four years. Funny how time alters dreams.
But, please, let’s return to those two seats in the northwest corner of the end zone. Please?
The Longhorns trailed with less than two minutes remaining, no time outs, needing a touchdown and an extra point to tie the score. My son had never heard the din of 100,000 screaming football fans before; we stood and added to the scene as much as a father and son could.
You know when someone says they wouldn’t want to be any place other than right here, right now? Well, that was us.
Later, I wrote about the experience in an Inside Texas column:
“When we score a touchdown here,” I shouted, knowing full well we were going to score, “we’ve got to go for two! Let’s win it right now!”
Miles leaned back.
“Yeah! They can’t stop Heard!”
Soon, we both saw a hole part in the line of scrimmage, through which Heard ran toward us. Right toward us.
“Here he comes!” Miles shouted, and sure enough, here he came. I see him still today, in full-throttled sprint. Here he comes, Milesy. Here he comes.
He crossed the goal line and froze briefly, striking the defiant and victorious pose of someone who had just vanquished all of the enemy in the valley below. Swear to God, he looked right at us before his trailing teammates engulfed him in the glorious delirium of victory. Miles and I screamed and hugged all the way until the extra point fluttered just east of the right upright. And that was that.
Like Strong’s dreams, Heard’s career took a different path after that night. He struggled at quarterback and ultimately became a receiver. Recruited by Mack Brown, given the starting quarterback job by Strong, Heard will finish his career as a backup receiver for Tom Herman.
Certainly Heard had different dreams when he checked into the dorm way back when. Some undoubtedly believe he didn’t live up to the hype. Some probably believe he underachieved.
Heard is not one of those.
Instead of moping, or complaining, or tweeting, or getting lost in a sea of self-pity, Heard worked hard after it became clear that he wouldn’t be a quarterback. He learned a new position. He mentored those who took his place. He made those around him happy. He went to class. He showed up. He played for his brothers. He made his family proud.
On Saturday night, Heard will play for the last time at DKR. He may or may not think about the signature play of his career on Saturday, but my sweet son and I will always remember him frozen triumphantly in the back of the northwest end zone. Always.
Here he comes. There he goes.