After three years, punt returner Heit finding his role with Bison

FARGO — The University of Delaware football team was still fresh off a blocked punt that went through the end zone that gave the Blue Hens a 2-0 lead over North Dakota State last Saturday. The Bison responded with a touchdown.

That’s when Trevor Heit put his stamp on the Bison first-half steamroll. He returned a punt 25 yards that set up an NDSU field goal and the Bison went on to a 47-22 win at Tubby Raymond Field in Newark, Del.

Heit almost took it to the house.

“It was a good feeling,” he said. “I was a little disappointed I ran into my own guy and then I got tackled by the shield but it all happened so fast.”

The “shield” is comprised of three Blue Hens blockers in front of their punter. In other words, Heit was put to the turf by a lineman-type of player.

“I’ll get the next one,” he said.

The next opportunity is Saturday against California Davis at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. After laboring through three years in the NDSU system and two injuries, the junior Heit has finally found a role.

He also returned a kickoff 35 yards against the Blue Hens.

“A lot of hard work,” Heit said of his Bison career. “But it’s a relief when you finally get out there. You get your opportunity and it feels good to get out there so I’m going to make the most of it.”

Bison head coach Matt Entz said Heit has proven his trust with his sure-handed nature on catching punts. Entz said the goal is to get 10 yards per return, which makes it one less first down for the offense to get.

“He did a good job,” Entz said. “The No. 1 thing in my philosophy with the punt return is the most important thing is we have the football at the end of the snap. And he has that willingness to make a small crack into a 10- or 15-yard gain.”

Heit has proven the willingness to overcome an injury. An ankle injury sidelined him as a redshirt freshman. He tore an ACL in his knee as a sophomore, which was his third year in the program.

“It damaged the mindset a little bit,” Heit said. “I wouldn’t say I was thinking about quitting but it hurt the mentality going out to practice.”

The 5-foot-9, 179-pound Heit, from Pepin, Wis., is a wide receiver on the roster. NDSU has shown some better depth than expected at that position in the early going so Heit could just as well be labeled a full-time kick returner.

“I’ll help the team wherever I can and right now that’s punt return,” he said, “so I take pride in that.”

Ironically, fielding punts in high school wasn’t his favorite. But over three years of working at it in college has changed his mind. Heit was a preferred walk-on (he held two Division II scholarship offers) in the 2016 recruiting class who as a running back rushed for 4,763 yards and 75 touchdowns in his prep career. He returned five kickoffs for touchdowns on a team that twice was a state runner-up.

“Returning punts is a different job back there,” he said. “You’re looking up at the ball and everyone is sprinting down at you. I’ve learned to love it now.”