University of Saskatchewan Offensive Lineman turned some heads on Saturday due to an impressive performance in the East West Shrine Bowl held in Tampa, Florida. Heenan was one of three current CIS players and five Canadians to compete in the game. Typically players who show well in the game are drafted in the fifth to seventh round of the NFL Draft.
Heenan started and played the entire first quarter, the start of the second quarter, and all of the second half. West Head Coach Brad Childress, who was the Head Coach for the Minnesota Vikings from 2006 to 2010 and the Offensive Co-ordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999 to 2005, left Heenan in the game more than some of the other linemen.
“The coaches had a lot of confidence in me,” Heenan said on Sunday night. “I think that is an indication of why I played so much. Overall, they thought that I improved each day and were pleased with my play.”
“I feel as though the game went about as well as it could for me,” Heenan added. “I played three-and-a-half quarters. I was a little nervous at the beginning but I think I had a solid second half.”
It wasn’t only the coaches who noticed Heenan. Draft pundits and scouts were quick to notice his improvement.
Influential NFL Scout and blogger Tom Melton watched some of the early practices and said that, “I also liked some of what I saw from Ben Heenan (Saskatchewan) at guard today. He did a good job against the bigger, stronger Dominique Hamilton in 1 on 1’s and looked good overall in the 1 on 1 drills. He didn’t look great in the team drills, but I think there is potential there. I think he’s a long term developmental guy, but he showed some toughness and nastiness despite not being in pads and I liked that.”
The Bleacher Report had this to say about Heenan, “While attention is usually given primarily to the skill position players, the battle in the trenches between the West offensive line and the East defensive line ended up being the matchup that defined this game… Miami University guard Brandon Brooks, Connecticut center Moe Petrus and Saskatchewan right guard Ben Heenan all did a great job throughout the game of lead blocking in the middle to open up holes for the running game….
“The biggest surprise may have been Heenan. Typically in years past, the Canadian prospects brought into the Shrine Game on an annual basis have performed poorly, and have clearly not belonged on the field with serious NFL Draft prospects. This was not the case this year. Heenan did a terrific job blocking up front in this game, and while he remains a long shot to be drafted, he made a very legitimate case for himself with his performance in Tampa.”
Should Heenan be passed over by the NFL, it would be a near certainty that the Riders will make him the first overall draft pick this spring.
Heenan’s success at the Shrine Bowl started with the second practice, once he had time to settle in. “As an offense, we would meet for about an hour every morning before breaking into groups,” said Heenan. “Coach Childress led those meetings and it was interesting to see how someone with his offensive mind broke down the film and analyzed the line play.” After the meetings the team hit the field for a 90 minute session.
Heenan’s success at the Shrine Bowl was big news across the country as his name was trending on twitter in Canada.
Heenan returned to Los Angeles to train on Sunday and started working out again on Monday. Heenan has decided to spend a few months in the US training for the upcoming college combine season. Despite the fact that he training in warmer climates, Heenan’s heart is still in the prairies.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Huskie coaches,” he said. “I’ve got so much support from Huskie nation and all of the fans and I want to thank everyone for that. It helped so much during the week.”