If there’s a new player on BYU’s 2023 football team not named Kedon Slovis or Aidan Robbins who couldn’t be blamed for having a slight sense of entitlement, it would be cornerback Eddie Heckard, the graduate transfer from Weber State.
Heckard arrived in Provo last January with accolades as impressive as those two offensive stars, albeit at the Football Championship Subdivision level.
“It is amazing how many people ask for autographs and already know who I am here. The amount of autographs I have signed since I have been here is crazy. I feel like I am a professional already.” — Eddie Heckard
But coaches and teammates say the 5-foot-10, 190-pound redshirt senior from Las Vegas has worked tirelessly at BYU, and acted anything but entitled. Heckard will get the nod as a starting cornerback for the Cougars on Saturday when they open the season against Sam Houston (8:15 p.m. MDT, FS1) at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“Well, he’s been outstanding,” said defensive coordinator Jay Hill, who coached Heckard for five seasons at Weber State before arriving at BYU a month or so before Heckard did. “He brings a toughness, a tenacity, that really stands out. It really took only two practices for the players to realize here at BYU why I brought him, and why I wanted Eddie with me.”
Heckard was an Associated Press Second Team All-American in 2022 for Weber State and was seemingly headed for the NFL draft when the season concluded.
However, after a little research and some discussions with Hill and other coaches, he decided the best place to “get better” and “improve my stock” was at BYU. He also believes playing at the Football Bowl Subdivision level will also bring more NFL attention than he would have gotten had he stayed at Weber State.
Since making the transfer to Provo, a town he says with a chuckle has “a lot fewer distractions” than his native Las Vegas or his home of the past five years, Ogden, he’s had his decision validated time and again.
“BYU has been nothing short of amazing. I think everything they got to offer here is exactly what I needed as far as the coaches, the strength and conditioning staff, the sports science staff, to help me prepare for my future,” he said midway through fall camp. “A big thing for me is to get faster with my 40 (yard dash time), and I think I am already doing that.”
An instant celebrity in Provo
Heckard’s arrival wasn’t as hyped as much as that of Slovis, the quarterback, or Robbins, the running back, but he will give the BYU defense a legitimate playmaker, especially after star safety Micah Harper was lost for the season with a knee injury.
He knew he was in “a different place” shortly after getting to BYU, but the culture shock came in an unexpected way.
“It is amazing how many people ask for autographs and already know who I am here,” he said. “The amount of autographs I have signed since I have been here is crazy. I feel like I am a professional already.”
He said he signed about 100 autographs while at Weber State for five years.
“In one day over here, I signed more than 400 autographs on a poster, or something like that,” he said.
Heckard sat out the 2017 season at Weber State as a redshirt, then played in 49 career games for the Wildcats and was a member of three teams that won Big Sky Conference championships. He earned All-Big-Sky honors in four of the five seasons in which he played.
“He does things the right way,” Hill said. “He doesn’t say anything. He is an intimidating force out there, just with how physical he plays. He is disciplined and tough. Those things are critical.”
In May, Heckard was joined at BYU by another Weber State cornerback, Kamden Garrett, who is also from Las Vegas but didn’t know Heckard until they were college teammates. A senior with one year of eligibility remaining, Garrett enters the season as BYU’s starter at nickel back when the Cougars are using five defensive backs.
“Those guys have brought a presence, and they know my expectations,” Hill said. “They have helped me relay to the other players exactly what we want to get accomplished. And both those guys are playing at a very high level right now.”
Garrett said BYU fans are going to love Heckard’s playing style.
“He is a dog. He is all around the field. He makes plays. He is a leader. He doesn’t really talk much, but he leads with his actions and how he plays and how he practices,” Garrett said. “You are going to get the same thing out of him every day. He just delivers. Fans are going to love him.”
Making the jump to big-time college football
It didn’t take Heckard long to realize that he’s not in Ogden anymore, and it had nothing to do with Provo’s lack of nightlife. Rather, it was all about the guys around him.
“We have a lot of good players here,” he said. “Like, everywhere you look there is a good player, in every position, and somebody that can beat you on both sides of the ball. That’s what I think is great about this program and what is going to push us to be good.”
Heckard said he didn’t expect All-American treatment at BYU, and he hasn’t received it.
“I’m going to keep battling. Me being an All-American at the FCS level means nothing here. And nothing I did last year means anything here. I am trying to prove to the scouts in the NFL and the GMs that I can be that great player that they want.
“So I feel like they are only looking at how I play this season,” he continued. “I don’t think they care about what I did at Weber State a few years ago. It probably holds a little weight, but not as important as what I am going to do this year.”
Garrett isn’t the only familiar face for Heckard at BYU; the Cougars’ roster now includes at least four former Wildcats: Heckard, Garrett, defensive end Logan Lutui and defensive end Nuuletau Sellesin.
Bottom line, Heckard says, is that if Hill wasn’t at BYU, he probably wouldn’t be, either.
“I don’t know if I would have been recruited by them, or how I would have shown up on their radar,” Heckard said. “I probably would have ended up with coach Hill wherever he went.”
Overcoming an early tragedy
Heckard’s journey from Las Vegas to Ogden to Provo hasn’t been rosy by any stretch. Just before his 10th birthday, in 2008, his father was murdered inside the family’s home in North Las Vegas.
According to the Las Vegas Sun, Eddie Heckard Sr. was found inside a burning bedroom, after having been beaten and robbed.
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A man and a woman were convicted of first-degree murder in 2011 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Young Eddie Heckard went to live with his father’s sister, Morrissa Trimble, and he lists her as his mother on his profile page at BYUCougars.com. The tragedy didn’t derail his dream of playing professional football, although there were some moments when he had some doubts.
“As a kid I knew I wanted to play in the NFL. But as I got to middle school and high school, that kinda faded off,” he said, noting that he only had one college offer out of Desert Pines High. “It became big again when I was a sophomore at Weber State. Then it was like, ‘OK, yeah, that is truly what I want to do.’”