Jan. 20—Ahead of the college football season in 2024, the TCU Horned Frogs of the Big 12 Conference added two talent signal callers with roots in Parker County to their quarterback room in Hauss Hejny and Ken Seals.
Former Aledo standout Hauss Hejny enrolled early at TCU after his time with the Bearcats came to a close following two consecutive state championship victories.
"I'm more excited about this chapter than anything I have been in my whole life," Hejny said. "I have been working towards this dream and pursuing it since I picked up a football and knew I wanted to play for TCU. I'm not going to leave anything on the table because I would be throwing out my childhood dream if I did that. There are a lot of good things I can carry over to TCU from this program such as being selfless and doing things for your team and not self glorification — doing it for everyone else."
TCU head football coach Sonny Dykes said Hejny's recruitment and signing was big for the program.
"He's just a winner and he's a guy that just loves TCU," Dykes said during a signing-day press conference. "I think in today's world, it's even more valuable and critical to bring in guys that have a connection with your program and really love the university and bleed purple. That's really important to the future success of our program, so that's a great thing to build around."
TCU has special value to Hejny and his family. Hejny's parents, JimAnne and Jesse Hejny, previously represented TCU as student athletes — JimAnne competed for the women's basketball and track and field teams while Jesse was a member of the Horned Frogs football team.
"To raise our son and put him in a position to be a part of a school that has meant so much to us is just an incredible feeling," JimAnne said. "Hauss understands all of this and playing in the purple will just mean a little more to him. We also understand the reality of college sports and so does Hauss — nothing is guaranteed and the work is just beginning for him. He's happy and we are happy that he can hopefully pay it forward to TCU while representing Aledo in the best way possible."
JimAnne has seen her son's determination since his earliest days and that his relentless pursuit of greatness will not cease when he puts on his purple-clad uniform and helmet in Fort Worth.
"We just hope he continues to glorify God in everything he does," JimAnne said. "It's bigger than him and he understands that. He's worked hard but he's had an amazing support system in family, coaches, teammates and community. Aledo is a special place to raise kids and our community has been nothing but good to Hauss — we feel extremely fortunate."
Furthermore, JimAnne explained the numerous connections the Hejny family received once they enrolled Hauss at Aledo as a sophomore and even before he was born.
"So many people at TCU played a part in helping us raise our son," JimAnne said. "When we found out we were pregnant with Hauss, so many people within the TCU and Aledo communities just wrapped their arms around us."
Meanwhile, Seals, a former Weatherford Kangaroos and Vanderbilt quarterback, also landed with the Horned Frogs via the transfer portal after playing in three of his four years with the Commodores. Seals said he wants to help Hejny get as acclimated as possible, as Seals brings in years of experience being a part of a quarterback room on the collegiate level.
The two have already met and interacted several times, and Seals said he knew of Hejny's play from following Parker County football.
"I've mentored younger guys than me before like A.J. Swann at Vanderbilt, so I kind of know how it works," he said. "The quarterback room can become a sticky situation if you make it toxic, but one thing I've been really proud to be a part of are really healthy quarterback rooms. There's healthy competition — where you have to perform and the best man will play — but everyone is still supporting each other, and that's the environment I'm looking to add to at TCU."
"I'm looking forward to helping (Hejny) navigate college football because there are things that would be helpful to learn before you actually are in it — it can be hard sometimes."
In total, Seals threw for 4,292 yards with 26 touchdowns and 22 interceptions during his time at Vanderbilt, and he is looking to compete for a winning team while elevating his draft stock at TCU with aspirations to chase a career in the NFL. Along with that, Seals will be reunited with people he has shared ties with previously, such as Daylen Wright, Jack Bess, Derek McAlister and Drake Dabney.
"I have to start by saying that I love my teammates from Vanderbilt, and I'll be best friends with some of those guys for the rest of my life," Seals said. "I think there's another level of talent at TCU that I'm really excited to play with. ... It's so weird how it's happened, but I've been able to reconnect with so many people at TCU. I'm really looking forward to those dudes that I know, but they've really beefed up the O-line through recruitment and the transfer portal, so I think that unit will be really strong next year."
Seals said he met with the Vanderbilt coaching staff the day after the Commodores' last game of the 2023 season, and both sides worked together to find a new home for the signal caller while maintaining what Seals called "a great relationship."
"He's gone through the fire. He's been at the bottom emotionally and physically," father Robert Seals, said. "He's had the rug drug out from underneath him more times than you can imagine and in more ways that aren't fair for any kid his age, and he keeps coming back. He has the right people in his life to help him through those things, but his character and drive hasn't faded. I don't think even the coaches at TCU know what they're getting in Ken, but it's about to be very evident."
Before solidifying his commitment to the Horned Frogs, Seals visited a handful of Group of Five schools, and the University of Ohio seemed to be the frontrunner for Seals' services until his hometown team came calling after their starter Chandler Morris hit the transfer portal.
"As I'm on the phone with AJ, one of the TCU coaches followed me on Twitter," Seals said. "So, I followed him back and sent him my highlight reel. Obviously, I grew up a TCU fan living so close growing up, and I thought, 'Wow, this actually might happen.'"
From there, Seals connected with Coach Kendal Briles who coordinated a visit to Fort Worth with Dykes.
"They told me that I was the top guy on their list and if I decided to commit to TCU, they would cancel the rest of their scheduled visits," he said. "With that, I told them, 'Alright, cancel them, I'm in.' It was a fun process, but I'm not gonna lie, I still can't believe it — it's basically right in my backyard."
For Robert and the Seals family, traveling to games got a lot easier, and the Seals support system is expected to show out in full force for their quarterback's remaining two years of eligibility.
"It's still surreal," Robert Seals said. "We'd make about three or four games at the most per year when Ken was at Vanderbilt, or we would just watch the game on TV. You want to stay involved and be there but you're not able to because of the distance.
"At TCU, even the road games at places like OSU and Texas Tech or Baylor are games we can still go to. It's going to be like Friday Night football all over again — every weekend, you've got some place to go to."
Both father and son believe the best is yet to come in a familiar place like Fort Worth.
"They're gonna get everything out of me that I can give. When you're a local guy, it means more to help the team be successful," Seals said. "I saw that with guys from Nashville who played at Vanderbilt — they grew up fans of the team and things are just different. It's kind of how I feel about TCU, and I know things are just going to mean more to me."
Whether it was facing an obstacle like having your entire offensive line opt out during COVID, to earning his degree or nearly leading an upset win at then No. 6 Texas A&M, Robert's words of his son sum him up best, "He has a burning fire to win."