Heard emerges as leader despite loss

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Photo Credit: Graeme Hamilton | Daily Texan Staff

Although the Longhorns fell 45-44 to California on Saturday, redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard made a statement. He’s no longer just a freshman — he is the Longhorns’ leader.

From start to finish, Heard took it upon himself to set the tone for Texas. Calm, yet aggressive, he delivered precise throws and regularly turned broken plays into highlights with shifty moves and explosive acceleration on scrambles. Seemingly overwhelming the Golden Bears’ defense, Heard went on to rack up 527 total yards to set the program’s single game yardage record.

“But just watching him, he’s exciting, and he has brought the excitement into the team,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “You watch our whole sideline now when our offense takes the field. Our guys are all just locked in.”

Heard’s exciting play is reminiscent of recent Longhorn greats. Coming into Saturday, the last Texas quarterback to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in a game was Colt McCoy in 2009. Heard’s 163-yard rushing performance was the first time a Longhorns freshman quarterback ran for more than 100 yards in a game since Vince Young notched the same total in 2003.

Texas’ players and staff consistently emphasize that Heard’s skills show up most when the lights are brightest, and it showed throughout his historic performance. Heard completed a 45-yard pass on third-and-20 in the first quarter and a clutch 45-yard touchdown run in the game’s final minutes. He made a difference when the pressure mounted. His play continually draws excitement from Longhorn faithful, and more importantly, his teammates are taking notice.

“He showed leadership and the players believe in him,” assistant coach Jay Norvell said. “Because of what he’s done, they know we have a chance when he has his hands
on the ball.”

Trailing by 21 in the fourth quarter, Heard said he never had a doubt that the Longhorns would catch up.

“It’s just the faith I have in my guys,” Heard said. “I know that [senior center] Taylor [Doyle] and the whole offensive line are going to do the blocking and the hard work. I have faith in those guys to let me see the pocket and get the ball distributed to those good athletes I have.”

With just two starts under his belt, Heard is still bound to go through some growing pains. In the midst of taking over the game with big plays, he made a few costly mistakes with two turnovers and other questionable decisions. His skills and potential are clear, but the Longhorns are still banking on him to continue growing. While

Heard is just beginning his career at Texas, he is already the face of the Longhorns’ offense. The team feeds off his energy, and his presence is yielding a complete offensive turnaround. Many questions surround the Longhorns as they head to conference play with a 1-2 record. Even so, there’s no doubt the team is confident that they found their answer at quarterback.

“He’s really showing everyone that he wants to lead this team, so I’m really proud of what he’s doing,” freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “We need his positive vibe and positive energy.”