In his third year as a starting quarterback, Greenwood’s Ben Heller proved to be as much of a positive factor away from the cheering crowds as he was on Friday evenings.
“Ben practiced hard, played hard and became a great leader for us. As a junior it was more by example, but this season he was much more vocal,” said Greenwood coach Mike Campbell, whose squad finished with a 9-2 record. “He understood as a senior what he needed to grow into. He understood the expectation of what we needed from him.”
Heller is The Daily Journal’s Player of the Year for 2012 after running for 1,225 yards and 22 touchdowns and still finding time to throw for 618 more yards.
Now that he’s had some time to rest his body and separate himself from his final moments in green and gold, Heller better recognizes how special those three months were.
“It was definitely one of my favorite teams to play on,” he said. “Starting 8-0 and moving up in the polls the way we did was a lot of fun. I’ve been playing football with most of my senior teammates since seventh grade.”
The win streak to begin the season marked the first time a Greenwood team had accomplished this since 2003. Offensively, the Woodmen averaged 37.7 points and only twice were held to 27 points or less — a 27-14 victory at Mooresville in Week 4 and a 35-14 playoff loss to Roncalli.
At 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, Heller has the physical and mental toughness needed to bowl defenders over. He’s been a quarterback with a fullback’s mentality in Campbell’s run-oriented offense.
“When I get the ball I like to try to run people over. I just like to play physical,” said Heller, who ran the pigskin nearly twice as often as he threw it (178 to 91). “Probably my freshman year is when I started running the ball hard, and I thought I could be pretty good at that.”
Heller’s 22 touchdowns tied Whiteland running back Aaron Harris for the lead among Johnson County players, although the latter narrowly captured the points title, 136-132. His six TD passes included two scores apiece in the games against Mooresville and Whiteland.
As a sophomore, Heller spent a good portion of the season on the sideline, first with a shoulder injury and then ligament damage to his left ankle. Last season fans got a glimpse of things to come when he ran for 359 yards and passed for 920 while helping lead Greenwood to its first sectional final since 2005.
With seasons winding down for most Division II and Division III college football programs, Campbell anticipates an eventual increase in interest for Heller, who already has heard from Franklin College.
Maybe Heller’s next football team elects to convert him to safety, slot receiver or some other position. Or he could remain at quarterback. This is where his high school coach used him, and the results speak for themselves.
“The biggest thing about Ben is consistency,” Campbell said. “And he has a great understanding of offensive concepts. There were times we would call plays, and Ben would always have ideas and suggestions.”