After he finished terrorizing the opposing teams' players in the Northern Region, Andy Heck spread his terror onto the top-program college stadiums across the nation. The 1985 Woodson grad's name is still spoken in reverence in the local football circles.
"He was one of the most formidable big kids I have ever seen play football," said former T.C. Williams football coach, Glenn Furman. "We designed our offense to run where he wasn't." Furman remembers Heck in his role as a linebacker, and even a quarterback at times. Other coaches remember him in different positions.
"He was a devastating blocker," said Mark Bendorf, the current head football coach at Robinson and former assistant at Mt. Vernon, who remembers Heck as a very good tight end. "I remember our defensive tackle being very sore [after a game against Woodson]." The Mt. Vernon team Bendorf helped coach won the state title in 1983, but lost the game to Woodson. "[Heck] was their best player," he said.
In September of 1983, the Fairfax Tribune published an article about the big upset, a 20-0 Woodson win over Mt. Vernon. The article reads: "The game remained 7-0 at the end of three periods. On the first play in the fourth, Woodson's Andy Heck, who had a leaping "skyscraper" first-half interception, made his second big play, stripping a bobbling ball away from Procter and racing to the Majors' 30."
THAT ANDY HECK PLAYED both sides of the ball was obvious from other articles written during the time.
Woodson's former coach, John Cox, was quoted in the 1983 Connection football preview as saying, "We are not that deep so we have four guys playing two ways but that is also a credit to their athletic ability."
The Mt. Vernon head coach at the time, Bruce Patrick, said Heck was a dominant player. He said that Mt. Vernon won two regional championships during Heck's time at Woodson, and that the Cavaliers defeated the Majors both times. Patrick added that games against the Cavaliers were simply physical, and that Heck stood out in those games.
"He was 6-foot-6, but he could run, he was agile and he had great jumping ability," said Patrick.
On top of his football accomplishments with Woodson, Heck was also a basketball star and a track and field competitor. In 1984, Andy Heck earned a discus state title in outdoor track and field.
"He was a tight end, he played defense, he played basketball and he could throw a discus, and that says a lot about his athletic ability," said Patrick.
The former Groveton High School coach, Gerry Pannoni - who also spent some time as a head coach at Woodson - remembers Heck as a middle linebacker and a tight end.
"He was a beast," said Pannoni, echoing the thoughts of other coaches on Heck's physical abilities. "Few kids played football the way he did back then. He was a big kid who could run the field. On offense, he was blocking the whole side of the line."
AFTER COUNTLESS BIG PLAYS at Woodson, Heck went to Notre Dame to play football. The Fighting Irish went 12-0 in 1988, with Heck as one the team's captains. That team, Heck's senior year, won the national championship, and Heck was selected as a first-team All-American. He played tight end for Notre Dame at first, but then switched over to play as an offensive tackle. Heck was drafted in the first round of the 1989 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks, 15th overall. He played five seasons with the Seahawks, in four of which he played all 16 games. He then left Seattle for the Chicago Bears, and played another five seasons in Chicago. He finished his 12-year NFL career in Washington, playing the last two years with the Redskins. Altogether, Heck played in 185 NFL games from 1989 to 2000.
In 2001, Heck became an assistant coach with the University of Virginia football team. It was during that time that Patrick saw Heck. He said Heck still remembers a game which Mt. Vernon barely won over Woodson, after an official ruled that Heck's touchdown catch was out of bounds.
"I saw him down there [at UVA] and he turned to me and said, 'Coach I wasn't out,'" said Patrick.
WHILE THE LOCAL COACHES who remember Heck remember his physical dominance, they also agree that he was a true class act athlete.
"He was a competitor, a gentleman and a scholar," said Patrick. "He was a coach's dream and a role model for many kids in the region."
Furman agreed, and added: "He was one of the best big men that ever played. He was a class athlete and he really represented our region and state on the football field."
After three years at UVA, Heck became an assistant coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars of the NFL in 2004. He has stayed in touch with the community over the years. Pannoni said Heck donated about 100 pairs of cleats to Woodson a few years ago. Also, during his playing days in the NFL, Heck's fifth grade teacher from Annandale won the NFL Teacher of the Year Award in 1994, after Heck nominated her for it
Andy Heck is 20 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.