In the final seconds of the first quarter against Norcross last week, Collins Hill QB Taylor Heinicke threw his 30th touchdown pass of the season, a new Gwinnett County record. The most important part of the touchdown connection for Heinicke though was that it extended the Eagles lead over Norcross. Collins Hill would go on to win 42-0 to clinch a home game in the first round of the playoffs. Heinicke says of setting the new record for TD passes in a season (32 and counting with one game left in the regular season plus the playoffs), “It wasn’t that important personally. I wasn’t thinking about it.”
With a new coach taking over the Collins Hill program before the season, the senior Heinicke knew that he would need to step up and become a leader as the offense would now flow through him instead of the graduated-tailback Charles Perkins, now at Georgia Tech. “Leadership is a must (for a senior quarterback). I knew what it took to be a great team,” said Heinicke about the leadership role he shouldered coming into his final season at Collins Hill. “We worked hard this off-season as a team.”
The hard work seemed to pay off early as Heinicke threw a 56-yard TD pass in the season-opener against a ranked Roswell squad and then scored the game-winning TD on a QB sneak in the fourth quarter. The high of beating Roswell was tempered though with three losses in a row, dropping the Eagles to 1-3 with the heart of the region schedule in front of them. “We knew we had a good team. We didn’t get down,” said Heinicke of the three-game skid. The Eagles, thanks to back-to-back-to-back huge performances by Heinicke, rallied to win five straight and secure the No. 2 seed in the region with a 5-1 record in Region 7-AAAAA play. “We’re on a roll and peaking right before the playoffs.”
Heinicke has been throwing all season long as Coach Kevin Reach trusts his quarterback. In fact, Reach calls Heinicke the best QB he has coached in his 23 years in football. “He’s well poised, good in the film room and the catalyst for us.” He has already surpassed 2000 yards for the season and went for nearly 400 in a game earlier this year.
The flashy numbers though haven’t led to many offers for Heinicke. Said the signal caller of the recruiting process, “it has been slow and fast at times.” Heinicke said that as a freshman and a sophomore, he used to think it was “cool” to see the juniors and seniors get letters from colleges. “It is still cool,” Heinicke said of his receiving letters from recruiters, “but it is better when they call.” He confirmed that most of the letters he is getting have just been information packets and not yet full-fledged offers.
His coach believes that his size is coming into play. “He’s 6’1. If he was 6’3 or bigger, all of the schools would be after him,” Reach hypothesized. Reach still believes that Heinicke could play anywhere because he is a QB at heart and his size shouldn’t matter as much when you take into account his skill set.
Heinicke will appear on the second season of The Ride, an MTV2 show that invites eight under-the-radar QB prospects to Virginia to train with former NFL players and QB gurus in an elimination-style reality television show. Hutson Mason of Lassiter appeared on the show last year, and after a strong showing in the playoffs, the former Trojans QB went on to receive a scholarship offer from the Georgia Bulldogs. Heinicke called his time in Virginia a “great experience” and hopes to follow in Mason’s footstep with a strong postseason showing. “I’ll take it one game at a time. You can’t look ahead to a Lowndes because you might lose in the first round to a Walton (or Woodstock. The No. 3 seed in Region 5-AAAAA will travel to Collins Hill next week for Round One of the playoffs.).”
Heinicke is a record-setter but he only seems to care about one record: his team’s record. Just days after his squad defeated Norcross to clinch the No. 2 seed, Heinicke admitted that he was glad to have the county record, but he was glad the chase was over with. “I think the team was more excited than I was.” If Heinicke keeps setting records but keeps the team first in his mind, the sky is the limit for the Eagles this postseason. The Eagles find themselves in a favorable draw, and if Heinicke keeps throwing the ball the way he did against the Blue Devils, the Heinicke could find himself in a favorable situation at an ACC or SEC school next year.