To any fan of Big 12 college football, you might remember the name Jerrod Heard from a few years back. The former Texas Longhorn got his first shot in the pros as a Dallas Renegade, which now seems like a while ago. Since then, Heard has spent time playing arena football, but has his eyes set on a larger goal: getting back to the XFL. When I interviewed Heard a few weeks ago, he raved about the initial experience, and hopes to rejoin the league for their 2023 season.
Heard’s football career has been anything but dull. At Texas, he originally started out as a quarterback, playing in 12 games as a freshman in 2015. He completed 92 of 159 passes for 1,214 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions, while also demonstrating his dual-threat ability as a runner (561 yards + 3 touchdowns on the ground). In 2016, Heard began the transition to playing receiver, catching 24 passes for 266 yards and 3 touchdowns. During his junior and senior campaigns, he remained at the receiver position, catching a combined total of 33 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown over that span.
Heard did not hear his name called in the 2019 NFL draft, and few teams showed interested in giving him a workout, let alone a contract. This has been a recurring theme with “positionless” athletes, which Heard and I discussed in detail. Most NFL teams would prefer a player to stick with a single position group, rather than bounce around between multiple spots. Additionally, the task of learning more than one position at football’s highest level can be a heavy workload, and a majority of players simply don’t want to deal with the extra pressure.
Heard is more focused on being a receiver at this point in his career, but teams were aware of his arm talent during the draft process, which then starts the debate of how and where he can be used in an offense. There have already been some examples of this in the current NFL offseason, such as former Miami quarterback D’Eriq King trying out at receiver for the New England Patriots.
Current Edmonton Elks (CFL) quarterback Tre Ford was given several opportunities with NFL minicamps, but turned them down because he didn’t want to move to receiver. The comfortability varies from player to player, and while Heard knows what he wants, he’s also grateful for any opportunity that comes his way.
As the 2019 NFL season progressed, Heard remained a free agent. The dream of being a professional athlete seemed to get weaker and weaker by the day, until the XFL draft took place in October of that year. Heard was picked up by the Dallas Renegades in the open rounds, giving him a chance to play under former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops (a rival he had once beat at Texas).
Although the Renegades would cut Heard before the start of the 2020 season, he joined the Team 9 practice squad and was eventually re-signed to the active roster. Heard saw most of his action on special teams, with a small role in the passing game.
Heard credits offensive coordinator Hal Mumme for furthering his development and understanding his needs. Mumme, who is mostly known for his tenure at Kentucky, is also the architect of the famous “Air Raid” offense. This is a system that worked almost perfectly for Heard, given his versatility in multiple phases of the offensive gameplan. While fans only got to see a glimpse of what the duo could put together, Heard knows that the best is yet to come. The two have continued to stay in touch, and the hope is that Mumme will rejoin the XFL next year, perhaps even on Stoops’ staff again.
After the XFL season was suspended due to COVID-19, Heard was out of football for around a year. In 2021, he signed with the Frisco Fighters of the Indoor Football League (IFL), and is now preparing to finish his second season there. While the IFL has given Heard a chance to continue playing (albeit on a smaller stage), it’s not the same as the way things used to be. Arena football and outdoor football are almost two separate sports, and Heard found nearly all of his success in the outdoor game. With XFL 3.0 quickly approaching on the horizon, Heard is prepared to run it back, and has already registered for one of the Summer showcases.
All in all, not only has the XFL proven to be a great way for players like Heard to get recognized, but it offers a true alternative to what the NFL currently offers. Had the XFL not been around, Heard may have never been able to fulfill his dream, and this story would have ended a long time ago. We wish him the best with his pursuits, and hope to see him back in an XFL uniform as soon as possible.
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