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Heckard: Weber State football success about trust, family culture

By Brett Hein - | Sep 29, 2021

Robert Casey, Weber State Athletics

Weber State cornerback Eddie Heckard (5) tries to avoid Southern Utah tacklers after intercepting a pass during a game Oct. 12, 2019, at Stewart Stadium in Ogden.

OGDEN — Weber State football hasn’t had a start as poor as 1-2 against its first three FCS opponents since 2014, which was Jay Hill’s first as head coach.

That’s where the Wildcats sit now after consecutive home losses to two pretty good teams in No. 3 James Madison and No. 8 UC Davis.

Hill says his team is going to “stay the course” and not “freak out” due to the results so far.

“It’s not ‘we’re going to reinvent the wheel.’ We’ve won four straight conference championships, we know how to win games, we’ve just got to do it,” Hill said Tuesday.

Sophomore cornerback Eddie Heckard shed some light on why Hill has that even-keel approach, even after WSU did everything to win but win against UC Davis, and how he’s confident in it.

“It’s not just football here, I think it’s way more than that. It’s an actual family,” Heckard said.

Heckard called back to when he was first recruited out of Las Vegas to play at Weber State.

“From Day 1 when I talked to Coach Hill, it was him getting to know me. It wasn’t even about football, it was about getting to know me, where I come from. He wanted to make sure I was the right kind of guy to bring into the family,” he said. “That’s what we do here. We’re not just recruiting just off football, we want to know if you’re good enough to be in this family.”

Coaches are a big part of it, Heckard says, even when faces change and some move on.

“We always bring in a coach that we don’t have a hard time getting along with right away. We can tell he’s a family person,” he explained. “There’s a lot of great role models throughout the coaching staff. Everybody is somebody you can go ask something, for some type advice, help, with anything … I know I’ve got a lot of people who have my back, outside of football.”

He recalled the times the Wildcats take retreats or camping trips during fall camp. In recent years, these have gone for about three days to places near Heber City or Alpine. At some point during these trips, players are separated into groups of about 8-10 players and at least one assistant coach, and they spend time talking to each other about their upbringing, their life, their challenges.

“Some people might not know about certain things and that’s why we shouldn’t look at a person in a bad way, because you never know where they come from. That’s where you get closer with your teammates,” he said, estimating he’s been able to learn about 60% of the team this way.

All of that leads to a kind of harmony on the field, Heckard says, where he can look all around him and know what kind of effort he’s going to see, the kind of positive play he expects WSU to turn in this week in a road trip to Cal Poly.

“I trust every teammate around me,” he said. “I just make sure I do my job, that way I can build their trust.

“I think that’s where it starts, as well. That’s when a team starts getting bad is when a player doesn’t trust anybody around them, then they start trying to make other people’s plays, then they start giving up their plays they’re supposed to make. I think that’s why we’ve always been a good team and will continue to be a good team, because we trust each other.”

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