Quarterback Taylor Heinicke’s twisted career path offers lessons

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After a slow start, I figured I wouldn’t write about Washington Commanders for the rest of the National Football League (NFL) season. I changed my mind because of Taylor Heinicke.

Heinicke was the backup quarterback for the Commanders. He became the number 1 guy after the team’s starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, injured his throwing hand. Heinicke led the Commanders to wins over the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts. Washington now has a respectable 4-4 record (4 wins, 4 losses).

But Heinicke isn’t just an NFL quarterback and fan favorite. He has great lessons for kids and especially kids who love sports.

First lesson: don’t give up. I know you’ve heard that one before, but Heinicke shows why it’s true. Heinicke played college football at Old Dominion University (2011 to 2014). He threw for 132 touchdowns and ran for 22 more, but was not drafted by any NFL team.

Heinicke bounced around in the NFL for years but couldn’t stay with any team (he was released five times). As of 2020, he was living with his sister, sleeping on her couch, and taking advanced math classes.

The Washington football team called and Heinicke was given another chance to play. Which brings us to the second lesson.

Be ready. When Heinicke had his chance in the 2021 season, he played well. Not Patrick Mahomes Where Tom Brady awesome, but good enough to show he belonged in the NFL.

Don’t be one of those players who always complain that you should play more, but when you get the chance, you play poorly. Keep working hard so that when your opportunity comes, you can seize it.

Focus on the future, not the past. In both of those Packers and Colts games, Heinicke started badly, throwing interceptions at crucial times. He didn’t slam his helmet down and crash into himself or his team, he bounced back.

After an interception in the Colts game, Heinicke led the Commanders on two long drives (82 and 89 yards) to win the game. During those two drives, Heinicke completed 12 of 14 passes for 151 yards. It bounces back.

Finally, focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do. Heinicke is not a perfect player. He’s short for an NFL quarterback and doesn’t have a strong arm. But he can move around in the pocket and runs well. More importantly, Heinicke seems like the kind of enthusiastic competitor who inspires his teammates.

Not every player can be the star of the team. But every player can find a way to use their skills to help the team in some way.

Just like Taylor Heinicke helps commanders in Washington.

Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 27 sports books for children. His most recent football book is “Gridiron: Stories From 100 Years of the National Football League”.

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