Behind the Hawk: Dillon Heap
This season, Dillon Heap, of the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks’ men’s football team has not only been breaking athletic records, but has also been breaking down stereotypes. The third-year receiver is as committed to his religious faith as he is to the team.
“Some people don’t quite understand it because we have different standards in terms of morals,” he said. “Behind family [religion] is the number one priority on my life.”
As a dedicated member of the Church of Latter-day Saints, Heap is directly involved with his church and has even partaken in a two-year missionary service.
Originally a native of Utah, Heap moved to Waterloo at the age of 11.
“Growing up in the U.S., football is obviously bigger than it is here,” he said. “There was always the football influence around and when my Dad signed me up for flag football I just ended up being good at it.”
Heap attended Waterloo Collegiate Institute for high school where he played football, basketball and rugby. He was a football first team all-star, co-athlete of the year and valedictorian in his grade 12 year.
In 2005, Heap was admitted into Laurier’s business program.
“I accepted on a pure academic basis,” he said. “I didn’t really have my heart set on playing football.”
Under the influence of his father who played the sport in high school and his older brother who played for Laurier, Heap decided to play for the team. The Hawks went on to win the Vanier Cup in his first year – not bad for a 155 lb, 18-year-old rookie.
“I don’t think I had ever stepped in a gym in my life,” Heap confessed. “Playing against 25-year-olds was pretty intimidating; it was a completely different level than high school.”
In his first year, Heap was named an Academic All-Canadian, obtaining a grade point average of 10. At the end of his first year at Laurier, Heap travelled to Chile where he spent two years on his mission.
“We give up two years of our life and go to a part of the world and do missionary work,” explained Heap.
“I didn’t always want to go when I was younger, I was kind of apathetic towards it at first.”
But as he studied faith at a deeper level, Heap hit a turning point.
“I began to understand the purpose of life and why I was here, and I wanted to share it.”
Heap now balances his time between athletics, academics and religion.
“I feel that the abilities in sports that I have are God-given,” he said. “As such, there are certain activities of the church I sacrifice in order to fully commit myself to university athletics.”
Heap has played a pivotal role for the Hawks on both special teams and offence this season.
The dynamic punt and kick returner has set a number of Laurier, Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) records over the 2009 season.
Heap is a four-time Laurier football special teams player of the week, two-time Laurier athlete of the week and two-time CIS special teams player of the week.
His 179 punt return yards against McMaster set a Laurier single-game record, while a season-total of 912 yards on punt returns set records at the Laurier, OUA and CIS levels.
His 493 kick return yards also set a new Laurier single-season record. Heap’s season total of 1,971 all-purpose yards puts him first in Canada by a long shot.
In response to his records and accomplishments, Heap remains humble.
“It’s mainly due to opportunity I’d say. The coaches have recognized my ability and the records are a statistical manifestation of ability, opportunity and the hard work of other people.”