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De Pere’s Heim gets his shot in USFL

By Greg Bates

DE PERE – While competing for 3 ½ weeks at the NFL Alumni Academy in December, Evan Heim said he gained some valuable connections.

One of the coaches at the camp was Steve Smith, the offensive coordinator of the New Jersey Generals for the recently-resurrected United States Football League (USFL).

Smith was telling Heim and other athletes in attendance about the excitement of the eight-team professional league starting up for the first time since 1985.

The 2015 De Pere High School graduate submitted the required paperwork for the USFL Draft held Feb. 22-23, where he was considered an offensive guard.

Leading up to the draft, Heim heard from the Houston Gamblers and Pittsburgh Maulers, but it was the Generals and Smith who showed the most interest.

When Heim’s name was announced with the fourth pick in the 23rd round — a round in which the guards were selected — it wasn’t a big surprise the Generals were the team.

“A couple of teams I talked to, they seemed high on me, so I was confident I was going to get drafted,” Heim said. “But there’s always doubt in your mind. I stayed positive, and I ended up getting drafted.”

Heim said he’s happy to be reunited with Smith and other players he got to know at the academy.

What excites him the most?

“Honestly, playing football again,” Heim said.

The Minnesota State University standout spent last summer in the Detroit Lions training camp.

He was cut Aug. 30 but held out hope of getting another opportunity in the NFL.

However, that never came.

“I had some teams call and reach out, but nothing ever came through for them bringing me in for a workout,” Heim said.

Heim said he was happy to get bites from NFL teams during the season.

“It’s good to know I’m still relevant in those circles,” he said. “That’s the thing – the NFL is like the biggest dating game.”

Heim moved back home with his parents in De Pere and started working at his buddy’s company, Tonz Construction.

The 25-year-old stayed in football shape by working out five days a week and working two days a week on offensive line drills with a specialized coach.

Former Seymour standout and University of Wisconsin offensive lineman Jon Dietzen also worked out with Heim.

Dietzen was selected in the 23rd round, pick 7, by the Maulers.

Heim was drafted by the Generals as a guard, but with only seven offensive linemen active on a gameday roster for USHL teams — there are 38 players active total — he will utilize his versatility.

The team plans on using him on the interior line at both guards and center.

Heim said his dream is to get back to the NFL.

“That’s the goal – put out good film against guys who’ve also been around the league,” he said. “There are lots of guys who’ve played in the NFL in this league, so it’s a good opportunity to get film out there. Then hopefully, I play well and can get into (an NFL) camp again and go from there.”

Heim said he’s been working on specific areas to improve his game and show coaches and scouts he’s capable of playing in the NFL.

“I want to show scouts I can make it through an entire professional season and stay healthy,” he said. “Besides that, be consistent. That’s the key to the game as an offensive line. You could have 50 good snaps, but if you give up a sack, you had a bad game. I want to show I’m a well-rounded athlete and can both run and pass block and play multiple positions. I’m not afraid to play center and call out what the offensive line is doing and what the protection is.”

The Generals will play a 10-game season and open April 17 on the road at Birmingham.

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