North Hills High School graduate Jared Heck had one unusual requirement when choosing a college to continue his athletic and academic career: He wanted a school that would allow him to play two sports, football and baseball.
"I love both sports and just couldn't pick one," said Heck, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior free safety at Westminster College. "It's very demanding to play both sports, but I wouldn't have it any other way."
Heck said playing both sports has made him more organized.
"You really have to organize your time properly and get your priorities straight," Heck said. "If you want to do it, it's something that can be done. It's just not easy."
Heck has been a starter the past two years on both teams. He plays free safety for the Titans football team, and splits time between second base and shortstop for the baseball team.
"I'm really motivated for my senior season," Heck said. "It will be the last time I strap on a helmet and I want to make the most of it."
Heck and his Westminster football teammates will play for a new coach as Scott Benzel has taken over the Titans program.
"It really helped to have coach Benzel for spring ball," Heck said. "The schemes on offense and defense are totally new, along with the terminology. Fortunately, the entire coaching staff is on the same page."
The coaching change required Heck to attend spring practices, something he had not done in the past because he was playing baseball.
"I usually skip spring practice, but I couldn't this year," Heck said. "It was a little tough having both at the same time. Fortunately, most of our football practices were in the morning, while the baseball practices and games were in the afternoon."
Heck missed the first five games of the 2013 football season with an injury.
"It was a freak injury on the first day we were able to wear pads," Heck recalled. "I kind of fell wrong on my shoulder and ended up breaking my collarbone."
It was the second time Heck incurred an injury before a season began.
"I broke my hand in a scrimmage at the start of my senior year [at North Hills]," Heck said. "But that injury was a little different. You can play with a cast on your hand. You can't play with a broken collarbone."
Fortunately, Heck was a quick healer.
"It healed relatively quickly and I haven't had a problem with it since," Heck said. "It didn't bother me at all during baseball season. Now I'm ready for football season."
Heck is one of six returning starters on defense for the Titans, who also have four starters back on offense.
"We have some starters to replace, but we also have some key parts back," Heck said. "We have a good group of seniors, with some returning as starters, while others have been patiently waiting for their chance."
Heck has high expectations for his senior year.
"My goal is to be a leader on and off the field," Heck said. "I want to be an 'energy guy' at practice and hopefully the team will follow suit. We want to bring back the winning ways. We want to bring back the tradition to Westminster."
Heck is a math major.
"I will be staying an extra semester to complete my college degree," Heck said. "I'm hoping to get into teaching and coaching. I also have some other options to consider. I'll just have to wait and see."