He looks like Rudy, only perhaps smaller only not as athletic.
“You're 5 foot nothin', 100 and nothin', and you have barely a speck of athletic ability. And you hung in there with the best college football players in the land for 2 years. And you're gonna walk outta here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. In this life, you don't have to prove nothin' to nobody but yourself.”
Little Jeff Heath is still with the Dallas Cowboys. For his fourth season. And with a new contract that includes a $1.8 million signing bonus.
Whatever it says about the state of the Cowboys defense and more specifically its secondary does not matter. Jeff Heath deserves our (my) apologies, and respect. He is the little (6-foot-1, 212 pounds) white dude that made it.
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Heath simply survives in a league that routinely “kills” people, and yet he’s still here. Whenever his career is over he will have done more, and made more money, than so many who were drafted and were far more celebrated and revered than he ever was.
How this man has managed to carve out an NFL existence is at a minimum admirable. There are a lot of football guys who played in the SEC and Big 10, players who were drafted, who wish like hell right now they were Jeff Heath.
That alone makes little Jeff Heath a role model.
Heath was undrafted out of Division II Saginaw Valley State when he signed a rookie free agent deal with the Cowboys.
“When I first came here, I was the eighth safety,” Heath told me. “I wasn’t really thinking about ‘Down the line’ in my rookie year. I was really getting overwhelmed if I played the numbers game. I would say, no, I didn’t think this would be in the works for me when I came to my first camp. I would get maybe one rep’ during practice on defense. I was playing well on special teams. I thought I might catch on somewhere else.”
He made the Cowboys in 2013 as a special teams guy, but eventually was elevated to time on the defense. In three years, he has played in 46 games with 102 tackles, six pass break ups, one forced fumble, one touchdown and three interceptions.
How many interceptions do the established high-paid defensive backs of the Cowboys have? Glad you asked.
Since signing as a free agent with the Cowboys in 2013, Brandon Carr has three interceptions. Since being drafted in the first round in 2012, Morris Claiborne has three interceptions. Safety Barry Church has been with the Cowboys since 2010, and he has three interceptions, too.
Is he a future Pro Bowler? No. In fact, he is a part of a secondary that in recent years has been destroyed by some of the game’s best receivers. The Cowboys would likely love to find an upgrade over Heath, but they have not.
This was never a part of Heath’s vision. His plan was to finish school and his degree and then he would go into coaching.
“I do want to use the words, ‘Made it’ and everyone wants that spot,” Heath said. “I’ve been trying to save the money I’ve made, but I do want to enjoy where I am in life. Not a lot of guys get to do this and we are all very fortunate. There is no point not enjoying it while you are doing it.”
Jeff Heath should enjoy it. God knows he earned it.