Chasing New Heights
By Chris Collins
One student on campus takes chasing dreams to new heights literally. Sophomore nursing major Chase Heights is trying out for the football team. The only difference between him and his fellow teammates is 10 years.
At age 32, Heights is attempting to play division three football for the university. He has played organized ball in the past with Killeen, Ellison and other high schools in different states. His dream for playing in college was deferred after he joined the U.S. Army and served 12 years as a combat medic. Heights believes he has a second chance to fulfill that dream and show his children they can achieve theirs too.
“My two main reasons for playing are, one, I have kids and I want them to see that no matter what life puts them through, if there is anything they want to do they should go for it no matter how old they are,” Heights said. “Two, I want to contribute to the school. I don’t know anyone who wants to come to college and not integrate themselves in school activities. Since I don’t act, sing, dance or play an instrument, maybe I can help UMHB win some championship rings.”
Heights admits training with younger players can be rigorous and demanding, but assures he’s ready for anything.
“I’m starting to see that it really does take longer to get back into shape the older you get,” he said. “They challenge me and I love the challenge. The only thing I don’t like is some of them calling me ‘sir.’ I know it’s out of respect, but I’m not old fashioned and I see myself as one of them – a football player.”
Junior math major and Cru running back Darius Wilson likes the idea of having a veteran teammate and is optimistic about the values Heights can bring to the team.
“I believe having an older player on the team can be helpful in two major ways,” Wilson said. “One, Chase can bring our team leadership by showing his ability of self-discipline that he uses in everyday life. He can also bring the intimidation factor by his physical build. Older players have worked out longer, therefore making us more intimidated at the first glance by our opponents.”
Wilson believes Heights’ military experience will benefit the team also and shares his own experience with older players in the past.
“Chase will bring the killer instinct to our team that he developed in the Army,” he said. “In my two years playing football, we have only had a few players over the age of 30 try out for the team. Having an older player will help the Cru in vital close games. Close games are not measured by talent, but by hard work and experience.”
Defensive end and strengthening coach Lee Munn has worked with the Cru for five years and never seen a player more than 30 years old make the team.
“I know we had some older military guys try out in the past, but as far as being 32, Chase is probably the oldest we ever had and probably the longest running military guy we ever had,” he said.
Munn thinks Heights’ experiences in life and the opportunity of having someone who has fought for this country playing beside them will make him an asset to team.
“I’ve been talking with him, and he’s been through a lot,” he said. “He’s done a few combat tours, and I think he brings perspective to the younger players. When they see a 32-year-old who has been to Iraq and Afghanistan and they think what we’re doing is hard, and when they see him and think about what he’s been through; it kind of put things all into perspective. Maybe that type of leadership will help on this team.”
Munn said the NCAA does not have an age cutoff. If players are willing to tolerate the pain, have not used up eligibility, and have not reached a professional status, they have a chance to tryout.
Although playing football has been a lifelong dream, it has nothing to do with the accomplishments Heights wishes to achieve while at UMHB.
“I just want to touch as many people as I can while I’m in school and when I graduate,” he said. “While I’m here, I hope I can help some of the younger students realize that it is a blessing just to be able to go to college because there are so many who will never get the opportunity. While I am here and after I graduate, I hope I can influence children and adults to get a higher education no matter their background.”