Versatile lineman part of ‘winning culture’
Casey Karnes | Thursday, November 21, 2013
Senior offensive lineman Bruce Heggie was not the typical Notre Dame recruit. He had the accolades, having been named an all-county performer for Mount Dora High School in Mount Dora, Fla. He had the lineage, with his father, Bruce Sr., having played defensive end for Florida State in the 1980s. What he lacked, however, was a position.
Heggie had starred as an offensive lineman, tight end and defensive end for Mount Dora. Listed at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds after his senior year of high school, Heggie was significantly smaller than most offensive line recruits, and Notre Dame was his only Division I offer.
“I knew that I would have to climb this mountain one day at a time,” Heggie said. “It wasn’t going to be an easy ride, but that’s why you go to Notre Dame. You come to Notre Dame to be the best and compete against the best, and that’s why I’m here.”
After four years in the Notre Dame strength-and-conditioning program, Heggie has beefed up to 290 pounds. Playing primarily as an offensive lineman, Heggie saw action in five games through his first three seasons and continues to be active in a reserve role as a senior. He has also practiced as a defensive lineman and said that even though his physical growth was significant, he has not yet cemented his identity as a football player.
“All the gains I had to make physically, mentally, just maturing as a football player is tough,” Heggie said. “I still haven’t really found where I’m best yet, be it offensive line or defensive line. Really I’m just doing whatever I can for the team.”
Heggie’s versatility from high school has endured, and after a rash of injuries decimated the defensive line following the Navy game Nov. 2, Irish coach Brian Kelly switched Heggie to the defensive line. According to Heggie, adapting to Kelly’s “next-man-in” dogma was made easier by the quality of leaders during his time here.
“We just had to establish a winning culture,” Heggie said. “The seniors that have come through the system while Kelly has been here have done a good job of leading and setting an example of the characteristics he’s looking for.”
While Heggie has little game experience on the defensive line during his time at Notre Dame, he has a role model willing to lend him advice. His father, who played for the Seminoles from 1983 to 1986, has been an active ingredient in his son’s football career. The younger Heggie said he has always looked to Bruce Sr. as an example, and even to this day his father is in constant contact.
“My whole life my dad’s been my biggest role model,” Heggie said. “He’s taught me to never quit … and that you are going to face adversity, but that the real winners pick themselves up. Him and I’s bond is unbreakable.”
With the constant changes Heggie has faced in his career, he admits he’s had some periods of negative thinking. But Heggie said whenever he begins to think selfishly or feel disappointed, his father always sets him back on track.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating that I’m not getting the plays I want to play, but [Heggie Sr.] puts it back in perspective,” Heggie said. “I’m serving something bigger than myself. I’m doing something for more than myself, and that’s the team. He says, ‘You got to put the team first.'”
Heggie has shown his willingness to do so by switching positions, but just because he may finish his career as a defensive lineman does not mean he will forget where he started. He says the three-plus years on the offensive line formed a bond that transcends football.
“It’s a brotherhood,” Heggie said. “We never leave a guy behind. We’re always picking each other up when one of us is down. We have to keep each other’s spirits up, make sure we know what we’re doing and get after it.”
After following his father into college football, Heggie may also trail him into the business world. A management consulting major, Heggie said Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and his father’s experience give him confidence entering the working world if he does not return for a fifth year of football.
“Notre Dame is the No. 1 business school in the country,” Heggie said. “My dad works in sales, so I was able to connect [to it]. I have something of a background. I know what to expect when I get out into the business world.”
Regardless of where his future path takes him, Heggie would be well-served to continue to utilize the philosophy that has defined him during his time at Notre Dame.
“You hold your head high,” Heggie said. “As long as you’re giving 100 percent everyday, you’re doing what you can do, and that’s that.”
Contact Casey Karnes at firstname.lastname@example.org