October 18, 2006

Another chance for Kris Heavner

He's started 14 games, making him by far the most experienced quarterback heading into Arizona's 2006 season. Yet Kris Heavner entered the year as the Wildcats' third string QB.

It's been an up and down career for Heavner, who was pulled out of a redshirt at Purdue in the UA's fifth game of the 2003 season. 14 starts later - surrounded by a disastrous offensive line and wide receivers that couldn't catch - he was benched in favor of Richard Kovalcheck.

After the season, Heavner transferred to Baylor and quickly came back to Arizona to play baseball. He then found himself in Mike Stoops office asking for one more chance to play UA football.

Stoops obliged and the rest is history.

"He wanted to come back," Stoops said Monday. "I trust what he tells me. He has always been forthright. He wanted to come back. It was important to him and if it was important to him then why shouldn't I? We all do things or make mistakes. It wasn't the right decision to leave but he realized that and came back."

Willie Tuitama remains out with a concussion and Adam Austin is injured with an MCL tear, meaning Heavner is once again Arizona's starter. He's excited to have another chance.

"It's been a couple years since I last started but it's an opportunity and I'm going to take it," Heavner said. "I'm just going to have fun with it too. It's not everyday you get to play Division I football at a major university so I'm just going to have fun."

After Austin was injured late into the second quarter of Arizona's 20-7 win over Stanford on Saturday, Heavner entered the game to replace him. At halftime, he assured his teammates that he would help them win the game.

"I let the guys know at halftime... 'let's go, we can end this thing and come out with the victory,'" Heavner said. "I've been through this. I've played enough games to know what's going to happen, how to treat the week, how to prepare and how to get ready for Saturday."

For Heavner, it all comes back to his love and appreciation for the game. He has fond memories of starting as a freshman and is excited to have the opportunity to do it again.

"All the memories I cherish are the relationships I made with some of the guys," he said. "You can't take that back. Obviously getting to pay Division I football, that's something I always wanted to do. Just getting a chance to do it again is something I'm grateful for."

If Arizona's talent level at wide receiver in 2004 was the same as it is now, Heavner would likely still be Arizona's starting quarterback. While he wasn't surrounded by much talent back then, he's noticed the change in the players around him.

"The guys are a little bit faster now," Heavner said. "(Syndric) Steptoe gained an extra step and Mike Thomas is kind of quick."

A good kid who has been through a lot to get this chance, Heavner will have his coaches and teammates behind him on Saturday.

"We have a lot of confidence in Kris," said Stoops. "It's funny how things work out."

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