When Ben Heenan first tried his hand at football in Grade 10, it would be something of a stretch to say that the former Sheldon-Williams Collegiate Spartan saw himself someday making his living on the gridiron.
“I remember my helmet not fitting for a few weeks and it was a little bit miserable,” recounted Heenan, 22, with a laugh. “I was a defensive lineman at the time and it was a bit of a turnoff from football. It was fast and it was something that took a while for me to adjust to.”
After Heenan grew accustomed to his helmet—and made the jump from the defensive line to the offensive front—he began to feel more and more comfortable on the field.
With a little more than two years of experience under Heenan’s belt, the head coach of the Spartans, Kyle McFetridge, made it clear that a run in the highly competitive world of professional football may be within the young offensive lineman’s grasp.
“He had mentioned that if it was something that I really wanted to pursue, you know, a career in the CFL was an opportunity that might present itself,” the Saskatchewan product recalled. “I remember him saying that if I keep working hard and keep progressing, in four years' time—when I was done playing CIS—I’d get an opportunity.”
Heenan—who first took to the gridiron largely as a way to hang out with his friends—was admittedly taken back by McFetridge’s prophecy.
“It’s something that, at that point, had really never crossed my mind,” admitted Heenan, who was recognized as a city all-star in his two final seasons at The C. “It was a foreign idea to me, so it took a little while to get used to. It definitely didn’t register at first.”
Nevertheless, Heenan, who was courted by a number of top schools across Western Canada, ultimately agreed to take his talents to the University of Saskatchewan—a school that has produced a number of high-level offensive linemen.
As it turned out, McFetridge, who envisioned Heenan someday reaching the highest level of the game in Canada, was right all along.
Since Heenan agreed to terms with the University of Saskatchewan, the soil and environmental major has started every game of the past four years—two at guard and another two at tackle.
He has twice been named a Canada West all-star and represented the CIS at the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Flo., en route to establishing himself as arguably the CFL’s top prospect for the forthcoming season.
Heenan will undoubtedly hear his name called during next week's CFL draft and could potentially collect cheques from a professional football squad—in either the CFL or the NFL—for the better part of the next two decades.
But he insisted that he is taking his run in the sport—much like he has since first taking to the field—one day at a time.
“At this point, I’m just going to try to contribute as much as I can,” Heenan said. “In what capacity I contribute will depend on how well I do in camp and how coaches see my development.
"Honestly, I’m not too sure [what I’ll be satisfied with before I walk away from the game] at this point. I’m more worried about my first day, rookie camp and my first season—I’m not really looking down the road all that much.”
Ed Kapp is a Contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.