Tags: Feature Sports Story, Sports
March 12, 2013 | 03:52 PMFONTANA — Two months ago, sitting in his kitchen in his Fontana home, Big Foot senior Carter Hehr said it's important to dream big.
Instead of seeking a Division 2 college football scholarship or choosing a Division 3 team and playing immediately, Hehr said he wanted to go to a Division 1 school, like the University of Iowa or Arizona, and become a walk-on.
Essentially, he wanted to become a real-life "Rudy," the movie inspired by Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, who walked on at Notre Dame despite heavy odds and eventually played.
Unlike Ruettiger, Hehr has loads of talent and accolades. But just like "Rudy," his dream of playing big-time college football will come true.
Hehr, a 5-foot-9, 185-pound safety, informed his family and friends Feb. 27 on Facebook he will be a preferred walk-on for the University of Arizona this fall.
A 2012 Wisconsin all-state selection, Hehr helped lead the Chiefs to a Division 4 state runner-up finish and a 12-1 record last fall.
He totaled 2,360 all-purpose yards, including 1,269 through the air and 830 on the ground. He crossed the goal line 34 times, by air, ground and kick and punt return. At first glance, one may say he's a running quarterback with his speed. However, Hehr was deadly accurate as a passer, completing 67-of-88 tosses with 17 touchdowns. That's an out-of-this-world completion percentage of 76.1 percent. And the guy only threw two picks in 13 games.
If you want defense, Hehr holds the interception record at Big Foot, a feat he accomplished his junior season.
He has a nose for the ball, and he isn't afraid to lay a big hit on a running back or receiver.
The Regional News caught up with Hehr recently to discuss his incredible journey.
RN: So why Arizona? Take me through the recruiting process.
CH: I had just gone on a football visit to UW-La Crosse the previous week. After going there, I realized they had just about everything I was looking for in a school: it was far enough away, a good-sized campus, and an above average football program. That week I received an acceptance letter in the mail from the University of Arizona, a school I applied to specifically because it was as far away from home as possible and has nice weather all the time. I decided I would send them my film one last time even though it was passed on signing day (Feb. 6), and they claimed to be done with recruiting for the 2013 season.
I also had my mother give the athletic office a call to make sure it was being sent to the right person. After being put on hold for 45 minutes, she got to talk to the recruiting coordinator, who then opened his email that had over 5,000 unread messages in it.
He opened mine with my film, watched it, and after listening to what my mother said about me determined I was an "OKG" which stands for "Our Kinda Guy."
This meant I had football talent, did not make mistakes off the field and "most importantly" in Sports today lacked the player profile.
He wrote a letter to the safeties coach, Matt Caponi, who liked what he saw and wrote a letter of recommendation to head coach Rich Rodriguez, who said, "Give him a roster spot, he is "Our Kinda Guy."
RN: When did you get the call from Arizona? What did they say, and what was going through your mind?
CH: Wednesday, February 27, was when I received the big news. I had to call the recruiting coordinator, Matt Dudek, as a result of NCAA rules, and he told me the big news. I had so much going through my head. Everything from "How is this happening?" to "God is good" to "This is a miracle."
To be honest, I was speechless.
RN: How excited are you to have a chance to play D1 football? Can you even believe it?
CH: I truly cannot believe it. I had given up on my dream of playing Division I the previous week and then this all happened. I thank God every day for this opportunity.
RN: Why did you choose Arizona? Who else did you consider?
CH: I applied to the University of Arizona the day they were playing in the New Mexico Bowl game against Nevada because I was watching the game. Also, because of how nice the weather is all of the time along with the gorgeous girls.
RN: What have you been doing to prepare yourself for college football?
CH: I work out with Lucien Walker three to four times a week trying to get faster along with lifting five times a week.
RN: Take me through the Arizona visit from March 8. What do you like about the campus?
CH: My mother, father and I met with each coach, went to the weight room, watched practice, and toured the football stadium, which is being completely renovated. They just got the biggest Jumbotron in college football and brand new turf for the 2013 season. It is without a doubt a family atmosphere.
RN: What exactly is a preferred walk-on? Can you earn a scholarship in the future?
CH: A preferred walk-on is when you are on the 105-man team without a tryout. Rodriguez was a walk-on at West Virginia and respects those who walk-on. He has given out over 100 scholarships to walk-ons and gives out two new ones every year.
RN: How supportive have your parents and friends/girlfriend been? Are they sad to see you go so far away?
CH: My family is extremely excited. My girlfriend is trying to be as supportive as she can knowing how important this is to me but at the same time, extremely disappointed to see me go so far away. They all know that it has been my dream and that I cannot pass up an opportunity like this. I just have to enjoy and make the most of every day I have left.
RN: What are your goals for college football? Do you want to stick with it even if you don't play right away?
CH: My goal is to earn a scholarship my sophomore year and be starting by my junior year. I will absolutely stick with it. I just want to be a part of something big and this is it. Whether I play or not, I will be a part of a family that will be with me for the rest of my life.
RN: What do you want to major in?
CH: Economics and, if possible, a double major with economics and either marketing or business administration.
RN: This is kind of a "Rudy"-type story. Why is it important to keep your dream, regardless of your size or if you play for a small high school?
CH: It is important because you cannot change how you were made, you can only make the best of it by working hard. It is sad that there is a profile in Sports that people have to be this height, or this weight. I heard a quote that I have lived by since I lack the player profile, "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard."
RN: Did you ever get discouraged? Did it ever seem like college football wasn't going to happen?
CH: I got discouraged day after day especially when not one DI program recruited Mason Dixon, the best running back in the state. I had given up the dream to play DI a week prior to the offer from Arizona.
RN: Who has helped you the most with the recruiting process? Who could you have not done this without?
CH: If it weren't for Adam Bakken, Wes Courier, Lucien Walker, Brian Ryczkowski, Todd Wilkins and most importantly my mother and father, I would never be in the position I am now. They pushed me to work harder, not to give up, and that I had the ability to play Division One. When others doubted me and told me I couldn't, including family members and myself, they were there telling me not to give up my dream. Todd and my parents played the biggest role in keeping me under their thumb and making sure I was doing the right thing. Todd had me make a goal card to keep in my wallet with eight things, the last one being, "playing D1 football." I started playing when I was five years old, and my dad and brother would go outside and play what was called offense and defense. It was a game we made up. My dad would be the QB, and the offense would be the receiver and defense the defensive back. We played this game almost every day we could up until freshman year.
RN: When do you leave for school? Will it be hard concentrating on baseball and high school when you know you're leaving soon?
CH: I will leave on July 1, so I have less than one month of summer. It is so hard concentrating after visiting and seeing how amazing the University of Arizona is in person. Baseball is something that I will not lose focus for. I will not let myself because of everything (Big Foot baseball) coach (Steve) Bochat has done. He deserves the best of me, and so does the team. It is so hard to focus on high school, on the other hand.
RN: What advice do you have for kids who dream of playing college football?
CH: My only advice is to never give up. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't accomplish a dream. With God, all things are possible, even something like this, which many including myself thought to be impossible and out of the question.