Arizona State junior Todd Heap may eventually go down as one of the best tight ends in Pac-10 history, but more than his highlight-show catches set him apart from the average college kid. Heap is as complete a person as he is a player. "I love the guy, and so does my daughter," says one member of the Sun Devils coaching staff.
Though he's a rugged 6'5", 250 pounds, Heap has an ear for classical music and often celebrates Mother's Day by whipping up a gourmet meal for his mom, Deena. A business major, Heap also likes to live on the edge by snowboarding, surfing and cliff-diving. Of course, none of those extracurricular activities prevent Heap, a devout Mormon, from attending church every Sunday. So what does Sun Devils coach Bruce Snyder like most about Heap? "That his family lives here, in Phoenix," Snyder says.
Indeed, about the only thing that kept Heap from going to BYU was his desire to be near his large, tight-knit family. (It also didn't hurt that Deena's cousin, former quarterback Danny White, is in Arizona State's Hall of Fame.) Heap began work on his own legacy shortly after joining the Sun Devils in 1998. On the first play of his first game, he made a falling-out-of-bounds, one-handed touchdown catch in the back of the end zone in Arizona State's 42-38 loss to Washington. Heap hauled in only 12 passes as a freshman, but four went for touchdowns.
Last year he emerged as the Sun Devils' go-to guy, leading them with 55 catches (43 of which were good for first downs) and a 15.1-yard average. This season Heap has been a marked man, constantly drawing double coverage. Still, he's tied for No. 1 on the team with 15 receptions, and the attention paid him has helped open the outside for speedy receivers Donnie O'Neal and Richard Williams.
Against San Diego State on Aug. 31, Heap, running a streak route, narrowly missed making a fantastic, fully extended, over-the-shoulder catch. "Any other player that's an incredible catch," says Snyder. "For Todd, that's a drop." Against UCLA last Saturday, Heap caught four passes for 86 yards, but the Sun Devils (3-1) suffered their first defeat, 38-31.
Last winter Heap took his athleticism to the hardwood, following in the footsteps of his grandfather Theo and great uncle Verl, both of whom played basketball for Arizona State in the 1940s. In limited action Heap emerged as a crowd favorite for his hustle and bruising work under the boards. In the upcoming season he has a chance to earn more significant playing time. "Todd is the ultimate competitor," says basketball coach Rob Evans. "You put him in the game, the intensity level is fixin' to go up."
Heap caused a stir this summer when he admitted to indulging in a little cliff-diving, from 65 feet up, into a lake in Box Canyon near Payson, Ariz. Snyder blanched when he overheard Heap telling the story to a local radio station: "I said, 'What! Are you trying to kill me?' That's Todd. He squeezes a lot out of life."
Says Heap, "Just make sure you don't tell Coach about the time at Lake Powell I did a backflip from 45 feet up."