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Brenden Heiss' electric pitching arm could help Jacobs' football team

Sarah Nader -
Jacobs' Brenden Heiss (center) talks to his teammates  during football practice in Algonquin Tuesday, August 12, 2014.
Sarah Nader - Jacobs' Brenden Heiss (center) talks to his teammates during football practice in Algonquin Tuesday, August 12, 2014.

ALGONQUIN – For most kids, the end of the school year means the next three months will include relaxation, maybe a vacation, and ultimately, a break. But for Jacobs junior Brenden Heiss, the end of a school year meant that the busiest time of the year was coming.

As a member of both the baseball and football teams at Jacobs, Heiss’ summer can be hectic. Between finishing Jacobs’ baseball season, attending summer football camps – this year he’ll play middle linebacker and compete for the starting quarterback position – and traveling with his Top Tier 16U baseball team, Heiss doesn’t get much downtime. But aside from one aspect, that’s what he prefers.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Heiss said, noting that about three-fourths of his summer was spent out of state. “I have a pretty good group of guys on my (travel baseball) team, so I have a lot of fun. But at the same time I kind of get homesick sometimes because I never get to see any of my friends that are back at home. But I’m playing baseball, something I love.”

Heiss is known as one the of top young baseball talents in the area. As a pitcher, he has been clocked throwing 95 mph, and consistently throws anywhere from 89 to 92 mph. As a result, colleges around the country, such as Arizona State, Arkansas, Louisville and Vanderbilt, have shown interest in becoming his post-high school destination. Although it’s early, Arkansas and Arizona State have stood out.

But rather than simply being known as one of the area’s most dominating pitchers, Heiss is trying to make his name known

on the football field. He’ll be one of Jacobs’ returning starters on the defensive side of the ball, and if he wants to play under center, he’ll have to beat out Chris Katrenick, who happens to be Heiss’ childhood friend.

Being a multisport athlete is becoming more and more rare, especially excelling in multiple sports. But it’s something that Jacobs baseball coach Jamie Murray and football coach Bill Mitz prefer.

“Now, unfortunately, the way our world has gotten, so many of these kids are specializing in one [sport],” Mitz said.

Murray echoed those feelings.

“We want to share our athletes,” he said. “And I think our sports have been improving over the last few years because there is no island, no one team is about themselves.

“We don’t own them, they’re not under contract. We want them to have those experiences.”

The choice to participate in multiple sports has not always been an obvious one for Heiss. He has thought about just focusing on baseball, the sport he hopes to pursue after high school, but dropping football has been a lot tougher than most would think.

“I love the coaching staff. Coach Mitz, he’s just awesome. And football gets me a lot stronger and I love the game,” Heiss said. “It’s kind of hard to just walk away from something you love.”

Regardless of the sport, both of Heiss’ coaches noted his work ethic. Mitz said that Heiss – when he wasn’t on the road – lived in the weight room, getting his frame up to 210 pounds. And Murray noted that Heiss doesn’t simply rely on his ability to throw the ball hard. Instead of being known as a thrower, he’s learning what it takes to be a pitcher.

“He’s the first guy in, last guy out type of guy,” Murray said. “And that’s what I love about him.”

While Heiss is only entering his junior year, he’s already received high praise from Murray, who said that Heiss may be the best arm he’s seen in 20 years. But what’s impressed him the most is his ability to take the mound against the best of the best, and to perform even when he doesn’t have his, as Murray puts it, “electric” stuff.

Aside from all the talent, and the fact that Heiss, given his progression in velocity, could reach 100 mph before graduating from Jacobs, the most exciting thing about him is the two years he still has remaining. Meaning the best is yet to come.

“He’s got two more years. I think he’s got a lot to learn from those moments,” Murray said, referring to pitching in big games. “And I think he’ll even be better next year.”

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