That kind of talent was bound to draw the interest of college coaches from around the country.
Sure enough, Heath drew 13 Division I scholarship offers before his senior season even began, and on Monday, Heath verbally committed to attend Kansas State University.
“I felt like it was just a great fit for me, just the history of the school and I really liked the coaches,” Heath said of his decision. “Kansas State goes to a bowl game nearly every year and I wanted to be part of a bowl game. On top of that, I felt like Kansas State was just the right school for me when I went to campus. It was just like Cartersville and it just felt like home.”
Heath began his junior season as a versatile offensive weapon, receiving some carries and often being used as a pass catcher. After starting running back Brandon Long’s injury in the fifth game of the year, Heath received more carries and finished with 712 yards on 65 carries and six rushing touchdowns. Heath also caught 18 passes for 244 yards and four touchdowns, often lining up as a wide receiver.
Heath believes his versatility will fit well at Kansas State.
“When I was watching film, I actually saw [former Kansas State starting running back John Hubert] go out to wide receiver and I said, ‘That’s something that I do. I know I can be like that,’” Heath said. “When I went to visit, I sat down with the running backs coach [Dan Dimel] and he said Kansas State never really had a tall running back and they really think they can use me. He was telling me, with tall guys, you can use them as a pass blocker and he said I was good as a downhill runner, and I remind him a lot of [former Kansas State running back and 2011 second-round NFL draft pick Daniel Thomas]. In my mind, if I keep working, I can really help them.”
Heath’s biggest game came during the last regular season game against Ringgold with the region title on the line. He ran for 176 yards and a touchdown against Ringgold’s stingy defense. He also ran ran for 95 yards and intercepted a pass that he nearly ran back for a touchdown against West Hall in the first round of the state playoffs.
Heath made an impact for Cartersville as a linebacker on defense as well. He recorded 52 total tackles and three interceptions on his way to being named to the All-Region 5-AAA first team. He also was named to the 2013 Daily Tribune News All-County Team.
However, Heath believes he will be a running back at the next level.
“Hopefully, I’ll play running back but I’m also an athlete, so there might be an open spot for me at wide receiver,” he said.
Among the schools that offered Heath scholarships were Indiana, Mississippi State, Washington State, Louisville, UNC-Charlotte, Cincinnati, Appalachian State, James Madison and Georgia State.
Georgia and Florida State were among other schools that showed interest, but Heath felt he was ready to commit.
“Not only Kansas State, but other schools told me how the recruiting process worked and said some schools only take a certain amount of running backs,” Heath said of the timing of his decision. “If I wait on my decision, that running back can already commit and could take my spot away.”
Heath said his verbal commitment is solid and he will no longer be open to recruitment. Heath’s cousin, 2014 graduate and Cartersville wide receiver T.L. Ford, also committed to Kansas State the summer before his senior season, but signed to attend UNC-Charlotte after the 2013 season along with fellow wide receiver Mark Quattlebaum and quarterback Brooks Barden. Heath said Ford’s affinity for Kansas State, and the fact that the Wildcats were the first school to offer Heath after his sophomore season, helped aid his decision.
“My cousin told me that Kansas State was a nice campus and that the football facility was really nice. He really spoke highly of Kansas State,” Heath said. “It was the first school that offered me, so I went down there and saw everything [Ford] was talking about. When I came to visit, they treated me so well and Kansas treats the football players like they’re royalty.”
Before Heath heads to Manhattan, Kan., he hopes to finish his high school career with a strong senior year. He has been working on his speed, as evidenced by the 4.44 40-yard dash time at the Mississippi State prospect camp.
“When I ran that, the coaches did a double-take at it, and they pulled me to the side and said it was the best at the camp,” Heath said of his 40 time. “That’s the fastest I ever ran. I usually run 4.5, but [first-year Cartersville head coach Joey King] does a good job of making us work in the sandpit on the practice field. After the season, I just started doing a lot of speed drills. I’m not 100 percent surprised because I’ve been working for that speed, but when I ran that, it did kind of hit me a little bit.”
Heath’s speed and size should help him make the transition from the purple and gold of Cartersville to the purple and silver of Kansas State.
“We bleed purple,” he said.