The 23-year-old Ben Heeney hails from glorious Kansas University where he played football for his full four-year college career. Heeney came to Lawrence as a star at running back from Hutchinson High School, where he tallied a school-record 2,083 rushing yards and 39 touchdowns. He also played safety, recording 143 tackles and four interceptions while doing so.
Heeney was an instant difference-maker at Kansas and quickly became a fan favorite. He may never be considered the most athletic guy on the field but his heart and motor gives him an advantage. His freshman year, he played in every game as a reserve LB. By his sophomore season he became the starter and started in all 12 games. The next year he would start in only 10 games (due to injuries) but still performed well enough to be named second team All-Big 12. Finally in his senior season he broke out in a big way, leading the team in tackles and being named to the first team All-Big 12.
The Jayhawks have had several recent successes from alumni-turned-pro bowlers Chris Harris Jr, Aqib Talib, and Darrell Stuckey. In 2015 Heeney was drafted in the fifth round by the Oakland Raiders, which could be the beginning of something big. Heeney played in 12 games during his rookie season and impressed with 21 combined tackles, two and a half sacks, a pass breakup and a forced fumble.
We are now entering the 2016 season and Heeney has turned his 5th-round label into a starting gig with one of the most talented up-and-coming teams in the NFL. Heeney is not just lucky either - you can tell he earned it when listening to the coaches. There is no doubt Heeney's motor is part of what endears him to the coaching staff. He may not have wowed scouts on paper but it appears none of that matters now as he has clearly fallen into the best situation possible.
Now that Heeney has the coaches believing in him, a starting job, and that high motor, it's safe to say the sky is the limit for the former Jayhawk and he could end up joning Harris, Talib, and Stuckey in the Pro Bowl sooner rather than later.