CLASS OF 2019: Record-breaking athlete Jefferson Heidelberger to be inducted into Nevada Union Athletics Hall of Fame
When Jefferson Heidelberger had the football in his hands, everyone in the stadium waited on the edge of their seat with bated breath.
“Jefferson just had another gear. He was so explosive,” said Dave Humphers, who coached Heidelberger during his playing days at Nevada Union. “There were times he would be surrounded by four guys trying to tackle him and he’d somehow accelerate through them and it was like they were standing still. He would take five steps before anybody moved. It was amazing.”
Heidelberger was a highlight reel on the football field and a blur on the track, and for his athletic accomplishments he is being inducted into the Nevada Union athletics Hall of Fame April 27.
“It’s a time period of my life I look back on fondly,” said Heidelberger. “To have an honor like this is a bit humbling and has made me reflect a fair amount on the support structures I had around me — my family, coaches and teammates and all the people I had around me.”
Dazzling runs and record-breaking performances were a regular occurrence for the 2001 grad.
‘PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER’
On the gridiron, Heidelberger’s career marks are historic. From 1998-2000, the electric running back carved his way through defenses for a total of 3,409 rushing yards, 5,114 all-purpose yards and a record 69 total touchdowns.
His senior year is that of legend, and school records. In the 2000 season, he rushed for a then-record 1,811 yards, scored a record 40 total touchdowns and put up eye-popping stats on a week-to-week basis, including a 312-yard rushing performance against Granite Bay, and a 418 all-purpose yards, six-touchdown outing against Del Campo.
The Miners won the Capital Athletic League title in both Heidelberger’s junior and senior seasons.
When his senior season of football concluded, Heidelberger had earned the Jim Brown Award (NU team MVP) and was named the CAL Offensive MVP.
Heidelberger credits his family, coaches, teammates and NU’s long tradition of football prosperity for his success.
“It always felt like you were part of something bigger than yourself,” Heidelberger said. “You truly feel that. It helps sustain you when things are really tough. And when on the field when things aren’t going your way, it helps you look beyond the immediate moment — and you keep pushing and pushing — and it helped you pull out wins that you might usually not.
“It was more a feeling of legacy and something bigger, and that’s really powerful.”
His impressive athleticism and speed translated well to the track, where he was a team captain and later named team MVP his senior season. In 2001, Heidelberger set the school’s 400-meter record and was a member of record setting 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams.
Heidelberger said he has three memories on the football field and the track that stand out the most: a last second win over Grant his senior season, a back-and-forth game the Miners won over Granite Bay, and winning the Sac-Joaquin Section Championship in the 4×400 relay.
“All four of us ran out of our minds,” he said of the record-setting track triumph. “It was one of the most fun and incredible races I’ve ever been a part of.”
As for the keys to his success: hard work, preparation and a little bit of luck.
“Those long days, early mornings and late nights, you know, hard work all the way through,” Heidelberger said. “Dave Humphers was an incredible coach, and Sig Ostrom, on the track side, was an incredible coach. They would put you in situations to be successful by virtue of all the work you put in up front. The level of expectation and level of work ethic put the foundation in place. And, there’s a little bit of luck. To be able to really stand out is easier on a really good team and we had incredible skill and attention to detail. Our line was incredible. Our defense was incredible. And, that’s why we had so many opportunities to be successful.”
The work ethic he developed along with the life lessons learned on the football field and track proved invaluable for Heidelberger in his post high school endeavors.
“That commitment and that level of work starts to instill in you something that carries through,” he said. “It was essential to my high school experience and it was a lot of fun and a lot of effort, but it also began to build the life values that kind of carried me throughout my life. Any amount of success I’ve had off the field has been largely informed by the work, and the way I went about preparing myself, on the field.”
LIFE AFTER NU
After high school, Heidelberger attended the University of Montana on a football scholarship. He played four years as a receiver and kick returner for the Grizzlies. As a freshman he was a member of the 2001 team that won the NCAA 1-AA National Championship.
His senior year was by far his best, as he led the team in catches (80) and receiving yards (1,240), and scored 12 touchdowns (10 receiving, one return and one passing). The Grizzlies were the national championship runner-up that season. He was named to the All-Big Sky Conference First Team for special teams and was All-Big Sky Conference Second Team on offense.
“It was an atmosphere with 18,000 people going crazy … Just an incredible game-day environment,” Heidelberger said. “It was a chance to play at a high-caliber football program on a scholarship … I had an absolute blast during my time up there.”
After graduating, Heidelberger worked in real estate in Montana for a spell before returning to California and obtaining an MBA from UC Davis.
Heidelberger has also spent time giving back, volunteering to coach Special Olympics basketball, spending time at the Boys and Girls Club of Sacramento and teaching financial literacy to at-risk youth.
“We had so many people that kind of enabled us and allowed us to do things and succeed,” Heidelberger said. “It was fun and rewarding to be able to give back to others and create that space for them as well.”
Heidelberger is engaged to be married this September and currently lives in San Francisco, where he works for PG&E. In addition to the community and his many coaches over the years, he expressed gratitude for his parents William and Candace Heidelberger, his brothers Erich and Ryder, and his sister Sara for their support and love along the way.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY THE NUMBERS
3,409 career rushing yards (1998-2000)
5,115 All-purpose yards (1998-2000)
69 total touchdowns (1998-2000)
1,811 rushing yards in a season (2000)
40 total touchdowns in a single season (2000)
312 rushing yards in a single game (2000)
418 all-purpose yards in a single game (2000)
6 touchdowns in a single game (2000)
Set school records in the 400-meter record, 4×400 relay and 4×100 relay (2001)
Jim Brown Award (2000)
Capital Athletic League Offensive MVP (2000)
Capital Athletic League 1st Team running back (1999)
All-Metro Second Team running back (1999)
Nevada Union team MVP (2001)
Member of Sac-Joaquin Section Champion 4×400 relay team
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User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
New season. New co-head coaches. Same expectations.