Today's featured players in the Kickoff Countdown manage to have a few things in common. They share the #36 Purdue football jersey and they are also both walk-on players for the Boilermakers. Being walk-ons, it is probably fitting that these guys have each had difficult paths towards earning even minute amounts of playing time in college.
But, another thing both of these players have in common is their work ethic. And yet another is that 2012 is a year of opportunity for each. With 36 days left until we see Purdue football again, we take a look at the linebacker Zack Heiniger and the kicker Robert Harris.
Zack Heiniger - Sr. (RS)
Hometown: Fishers, IN (Hamilton Southeastern HS)
5'11", 207 pounds
2012 Projection: Reserve at linebacker, special teams contributor
Heiniger walked onto the football team during his freshman year in 2008. Before that, he was an all-conference and honorable mention all-state linebacker in his junior and senior seasons at Hamilton Southeastern High School in Fishers, Indiana.
Fast forward to his tenure as a Boilermaker. In his redshirt freshman season of 2009, Heiniger never saw the field, but he did receive the team's Verle H. Campbell Scout Team Award for outstanding scout play. Then, in both 2010 and last year Zack finally appeared in multiple numerous games as a special teams contributor, yet he never recorded any statistics.
Heiniger has had a difficult road so far in his Purdue football career, but he is actually a very important part of our team's linebacker squad. He works very hard in practice and helps to better his teammates by giving them a formidable opponent outside of games. Also, it should be noted that Zack will return this year to his spot on multiple special teams units, where he hopefully will appears in all 12+ games and finally record some stats in his college football career.
Follow Zack Heiniger at his hilariously misleading Twitter handle, which doubles as a great Wedding Crashers reference: @ChuckSchwartzzz.
Robert Harris - Jr. (RS)
Hometown: Columbia, TN (Columbia Central HS)
6'0", 205 pounds
2012 Projection: Reserve at kicker
Robert Harris walked onto the team as a freshman in 2009. In high school, he was a three-year letter winner in both football and soccer at Columbia Central in Columbia, Tennessee. During his tenure so far at Purdue, Harris has unfortunately lived in the shadow of Carson Wiggs. So, being a backup walk-on kicker, Robert has not yet seen the field in his college career.
This season that might change. With Wiggs gone, there is allegedly an open competition at kicker. Harris has a fair shot to finally earn some playing time and kick field goals in the old gold and black. However, he will have a very tough time fighting off fellow walk-on Sam McCarthy, two star freshman recruit Thomas Meadows and three star freshman recruit (and presumed frontrunner for starting kicker) Paul Griggs.
No disrespect to Robert Harris or anything. But if he is on the field and kicking footballs around during games this year, it probably means one of two things, neither of which are any good--that either our recruits at kicker have seriously unimpressed or they are severely injured.
Follow Robert Harris on his Twitter handle, which I am assume mocks THE Ohio Junior College: @therobertharris.