College football would be important to Lynden High School’s Brock Heppner, but the senior standout takes a long-range view of his priorities.
What matters most for Heppner is a college degree and the potential for decades of teaching and coaching.
As a talented defensive end/receiver/quarterback, Heppner seems likely to find the right college football fit for his skills.
“I definitely want to play in college. My plan is to go for a spot on defense,” said the multi-sport athlete, who is also among Whatcom County’s most productive offensive players. “But it’s the idea of 30 years of coaching that means the most to me in sports. It‘s a way bigger goal.”
Heppner, whose grade-point average of 3.9 is his best statistic, is as willing as anyone to be the typical “coach on the field,” as Lions coach Blake VanDalen has learned, much to his gratification.
Although not all standout athletes would be willing to alternate at quarterback, Heppner has learned what a blessing his unusual situation has become in view of his teaching and coaching ambitions.
“I feel like I can be a coach on the field,” said Heppner, whose defensive versatility has made him capable of playing a hybrid version of either defensive end or outside linebacker for the Lions (3-1, 1-0).
Lynden will host Lakewood (4-0, 1-0) Friday night in a game with likely title implications in the Northwest Conference Sky Division..
Last season, Heppner alternated with James Marsh, who already has earned playing time as a true freshman tight end at Central Washington University, and was in on an average of more than a dozen tackles per game, as the Lions won all 12 games last season until their 42-37 loss to Hockinson in the Class 2A state finals.
This season, Heppner shares every other possession with potential-packed junior Baylor Ayres.
“James is like a brother to me,” said Heppner, who combined with Marsh for more than 3,200 yards rushing and passing last season. “We still text every day. He gave so much help. Now I’m the one doing what I can to help Baylor. This is great preparation for being a coach. You know, I’m starting to like this.”
Heppner has earned varsity playing time since he was a freshman. He said it took only a year or two working with Lynden’s coaches to realize why he wants to coach and teach.
“I’ve always been inspired by my family,” Heppner said. “My father (Brian, a sixth-grade teacher at Lynden Middle School) and my paternal grandfather and I all have played on state championship basketball teams for Lynden. My mother played on three state championship girls basketball teams at Lynden Christian.”
Heppner’s older brother, Bret, played football, and their younger brother, seventh-grader Brant, is a promising multi-sport athlete.
Heppner is not a big stats guy, although he did appreciate the opportunities to run for a touchdown, throw for a score and catch a TD pass in the same game for the first time last season, then again Sept. 20, when he combined for 146 yards passing, rushing and receiving on 28 touches in Lynden‘s wild 56-47 win over Steilacoom.
Heppner suffered three interceptions, but that didn’t cause him to lose focus, and he caught three passes for 95 yards from Ayres in Lynden’s season-opening 21-14 loss to 1A power Mount Baker. Then he turned around and ran for 140 yards on 28 carries, all while playing quarterback, and rushed for three touchdowns the next week in the Lions’ 33-21 win over Ferndale.
Against Steilacoom, he caught a game-clinching 45-yard touchdown pass from Ayres with 46 seconds to play. He followed with a solid defensive contribution in Lynden’s 10-7 win over Archbishop Murphy.
But Heppner readily admits that defense is his first love.
“I really enjoy everything about defense,” he said. “I like being able to study film and break down plays.”
Week 5 schedule
▪ Lynden Christian at Nooksack Valley, 7 p.m.
▪ Meridian at Mount Baker, 7 p.m.
▪ Lakewood at Lynden, 7 p.m.
▪ Blaine at Archbishop Murphy, 7 p.m.
▪ Meadowdale vs. Squalicum at Civic Stadium, 7 p.m.
▪ Oak Harbor at Ferndale, 7 p.m.
▪ Sehome vs. Mountlake Terrace at Edmonds Stadium, 8 p.m.
▪ Evergreen vs. Bellingham at Civic Stadium, 5 p.m.