BY ADAM WINAY | STAFF REPORTER
The hour ride to Franklin College is a quiet trip. Butler football players want to remain silent so they can focus on the task ahead.
The same goes for Butler senior running back Trae Heeter. With his headphones on, listening to rapper Young Jeezy, Heeter tries to pump himself up before the game at Franklin.
Growing up as a child in Texas, Heeter knew he loved the sport of football.
“Football was my first love,” Heeter said. “I started playing around (age) four or five and I always knew I wanted to play football in college.”
Like many college football players today, Heeter played football growing up. He played football from grade school all the way through high school.
Although football is his passion, Heeter is athletic and played other sports while at Lawrence North High School in Indianapolis.
“Basketball was my next favorite sport, then I did track and field as well. In high school I was a three-sport athlete all the way up to my junior year,” Heeter said.
Heeter said he decided to drop basketball after his junior year because he wanted to focus more on his football career at Lawrence North.
“I knew that I was the best at football. I knew that was the sport I was going to play in college,” Heeter said.
Heeter shined on the field his senior year of high school. He was named an all-state running back after he ran for 933 yards and scored nine touchdowns during the season.
After his senior year of high school, Heeter was recruited to play football at the University of Indianapolis and the University of St. Francis in Fort Wayne. Heeter was also offered a walk-on spot at Indiana University and Purdue University.
Heeter never knew Butler football existed.
“I never heard of Butler football and I was never too big on that,” Heeter said. “But I came here for a visit and I just fell in love with coach Voris and the coaching staff.”
“IU and Purdue sound good and everything, but it was a walk-on. I didn’t want to be a hidden dummy for my four years. I wanted to actually go somewhere I could contribute early.”
Heeter and Butler had mutual interest in each other after Heeter’s visit. Heeter said he also chose Butler because of academics.
“The number one thing you notice about him is he is a true student athlete,” said Butler coach Jeff Voris. “He was looking for an academic institution to play football. He is driven both academically and athletically.”
Heeter came to Butler in the fall of 2010 to study physical education and pre-physical therapy and play football.
Later Heeter would go on to switch his major so he could get a degree in elementary education.
He had other choices to play where the schools might have given him a scholarship, but Heeter did not see non-scholoarship football as a discouragement.
“Coming to a school like Butler, I feel like that is a scholarship in itself.”
Game day for Heeter is now a natural experience after nearly a whole life of football, but he said he still gets butterflies before he takes the field.
Sitting in the away locker donning his white No. 32 jersey, Heeter gets taped up while looking at the Franklin scouting report.
While he prepares for the game Heeter still listens to his music, flipping back and forth between artist Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” and rapper 2 Chainz’s “Feds Watching.”
All Heeter tries to do is avoid thinking about the actual game. Instead, Heeter humbly reminds himself he plays for his family.
“I give a lot of credit to my brother,” Heeter said. “He was the one that introduced me to football. He’s been there every step in the way. He comes to every game and pushes me every week.”
Heeter said family and his faith in God are his motivations to play.
Last season, Heeter led the Pioneer Football League in rushing with 1,098 yards, averaging 110.3 yards per game.
“[Heeter] sees the game better than any running back I’ve been around,” said Patrick Doherty, Butler running back coach. “He just sees holes better than anyone out there. He runs and plays very hard.”
The 2013 season was Heeter’s first full year as the Bulldog’s starting running back. “We were always playing running back by committee,” Voris said.
During his freshman and sophomore years, Heeter saw plenty of playing time but not necessarily at running back.
As a freshman Heeter was the Bulldogs’ top return specialist. He ranked fourth in the PFL in total kickoff return yards.
“He is just dynamic with the ball in his hand,” Voris said. “How many ways can you get him the ball if he’s not playing at running back?
“You’re trying to give him the ball as much as you can whether you hand it to him, throw it to him or let the other team punt it to him.”
During his sophomore year, Heeter began to see more playing time as running back. As a sophomore, Heeter made the second team All-PFL running back while starting in nine games at running back.
Heeter finished his sophomore year with the most rushing yards on the team, averaging 79.2 yards per game.
The 2013-2014 Butler football season is still young but Heeter is looking forward to continuing his college success.
He said he expects to run for 1,500 yards with 250 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns.
He also said he wants to see the Bulldogs win the PFL championship for a second year in a row and receive an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs.
Off the field, Heeter also puts up impressive statistics in the classroom.
For three years in a row, Heeter has been named to the PFL Academic Honor Roll. Balancing football and academics can be tough, but Heeter manages to perform well in both environments.
“Trae’s got his head on straight,” Doherty said. “He knows when it’s time to work on school work. He knows when he needs to be ready to be on the field.”
In less than nine months, Heeter will be walking across the stage to receive his degree in elementary education.
While Heeter would love to go pro in football, he said he wants to help out the children in the Indianapolis Public School system.
“I know how important my elementary teachers were to me and helping me become successful not only academically but athletically as well,” Heeter said. “I just want to give back to the community.”
Now fully dressed for the game, Heeter stops listening to rapper Lil Jon’s “Throw it Up” and takes his headphones off.
Heeter picks up his white helmet with the big blue “B” and puts it on.
He is ready to go to battle against Franklin. He exits the locker room with his teammates.
The Bulldogs enter on to field with plenty of boos from Franklin’s fans, but Heeter is not worried. Instead, he’s calm, cool, collected and ready to run wild.