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Jake Heaps: The Mountain Climb Begins

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Jake Heaps was rewarded with a contract following his impressive tryout, just how high can he climb?

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

We don't have a QB competition, that much was confirmed by Chan Gailey this past week. Geno Smith will start and it's pretty obvious that Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the #2. With the Jets investing their 4th round pick in Bryce Petty, Jake Heaps is playing for a spot on the practise squad, at least in year one anyway.

You would be forgiven for not knowing a great deal about Jake Heaps, he didn't garner the pre-draft media attention that many prospects did, but the Jets were quick to invite him to a tryout. With Fitzpatrick rehabbing from a broken leg and Bowles wanting to carry four quarterbacks into training camp, Jake Heaps's impressive tryout warranted a contract and that's exactly what he got.

Todd Bowles commented

With Ryan still rehabbing, we need the extra arm, and [Heaps] put up a good tryout performance when he was here," Bowles said. "So to have the extra arm, knowing that we're going to practice on two fields, not knowing how much Fitzpatrick can do, it was good to have two quarterbacks on each field."

Personally, I follow high school recruiting almost as much as the draft, so Jake Heaps strung a cord with me. He was actually rated as the #1 QB in the country coming out of high school by both Rivals and Scout. Poise, judgment, accuracy, arm strength and a competitive edge, these aspects were all mentioned in the positive column by numerous outlets, so how did the #1 high school quarterback end up going undrafted in the 2015 NFL draft. According to scout.com, Jake Heaps was the #1 pro-style QB in the class, a class that also included Sean Mannion, and Phillip Simms, how much pressure comes from being the number one QB, not a great deal if you speak to Jake:

To be honest it didn't add any pressure to me. I will always have higher expectations of myself than anybody out there. To me being rated as the #1 QB in the country was just a culmination of all the hard work that I put in to play at the highest level I possibly could and the success that my teammates and I had at Skyline High School. I've never looked at it as a burden.

How did the BYU Cougars prized commitment end up playing for three different college teams over 5 years?

If I was to tell you that Jake finished his college careers with a stat line that looks like this, what would you think?:

497/908 for a 54.7% throwing accuracy. 32 TD's, 27 INT's and a 108.8 passer efficiency rating.

It's not eye opening by any means but what happened?

He played immediately as a freshman at BYU, led them to a victory in the New Mexico Bowl was named MVP and finished his freshman year with 15 touchdowns to 9 interceptions, he broke severa freshman BYU records and it looked as though he was well on his way to being a fine college quarterback.

However something happened between his freshman year and his sophomore campaign. He struggled early and was replaced by the back-up only a handful of games into the season. He finished with 9 touchdowns to 8 interceptions and made the announcement he was transferring before BYU's Armed Forces Bowl appearance, a game he did not travel to.

It was unfortunate that didn't workout at BYU but I truly believe that God has a plan for me. It's not the path that I would have chosen for myself coming out of high school but I have learned so much from my college career and feel that it has made me better in all aspects of my life.

Heaps had his choice of college teams, electing to choose the spread offense of BYU over Washington, and a host of other teams that offered, like Alabama, Notre Dame, Florida, Tennessee, LSU and Florida State.

After sitting out a year due to NCAA regulations, Heaps failed to kickstart his faltering college career in Kansas under Charlie Weis. For the first time in his career, he had thrown more interceptions than touchdowns (8 to 10) and for the third straight year his completion percentage had fallen, this time by a significant margin (49% from 57.1%).

I chose to go to Kansas to play and learn from Charlie Weis. I wanted to play in a true pro style system and that move has definitely paid off for me in terms of being more NFL ready. I wasn't intimidated by the Jets offense because I was asked to do similar things when I played for Coach Weis.

A new pro-style offense taught Jake a lot of important lessons, but overall statistically, it wasn't his finest hour. He finished the season completing 128/261 passes for a completion percentage of 49% with 8 touchdowns to 10 interceptions

Football is the ultimate team sport and you win and lose as a team. Obviously that year we weren't very successful and I don't think I could pin point just one thing that led to an unsuccessful campaign that season. Learning Weis's offense was huge because it was a true pro style offense. He demanded a lot from the QB on every single play. Getting use to lengthy play calls, being in a huddle, and having to make MIKE IDs (where the QB controls the protection and run game).

Coming out of high school he was regarded as one of the most accurate passers in the nation, when he transferred a second time as a graduate to Miami, he was anything but. His decision to transfer to Miami made sense, they were short on experienced signal callers after Stephen Morris left the team following the 2013 season and he had a good chance to start. In fact if you read the blogs around the time of the transfer, most Hurricane fans expected him to win the competition.

"I didn't come here to be the backup," Heaps said in the teleconference. "I made this decision for a reason. I came here to play, but you have to earn that. No one is going to give that to you, and that's what I knew coming into this situation and that's what I wanted."

Unfortunately he was unable to beat out Brad Kaaya and his final season was uneventful as he played only a handful of snaps, he completed 6 of his 12 attempts with no touchdowns or interceptions.

Both times I transferred it was difficult on my wife and I. We wanted both places to workout, it was tough at times. When it came down to it we felt like having a chance to play for The U was a great opportunity that I couldn't pass up. Things didn't happen there they way we were hoping but I never regretted it. At the end of the day I could look myself in the mirror and know I gave everything I had and sometimes in life things don't go your way. I learned a lot and had a great experience there. I never stopped working hard and never stopped believing in my abilities

The question is, what did the Jets see to sign Heaps to a contract? Does he have a shot to be the next Kurt Warner, Tony Romo, Warren Moon, Jeff Garcia or even Dave Krieg? All quarterbacks who went un-drafted but improved enough to carve out a role in the NFL.

The draft process for a player not expecting to be drafted is a long one, if your name isn't called, you hope your phone will ring, with a chance at fulfilling your dream on the other end. Statistically Jake knew he hadn't done enough to hear his name called throughout the process, completing less than 50% of your passes will do that, I asked Jake what the whole process was like:

The whole draft process for me was all about grinding and giving myself the best shot I could because of how my college career went. I knew I wasn't going to get drafted but hopeful I would be a PFA. I went back home to Washington and trained hard in the weight room and with my QB trainer from back in high school. It was great for me to get back to my roots. I got myself in the best shape of my life and performed very well at my pro day and other workouts with NFL teams. I didn't have much contact with the Jets until the week leading up to the draft. A lot of the Jets staff was at Miami's pro day which I think helped me. When I got the call to attend mini camp with the Jets I was fired up for the opportunity to compete and showcase my ability to play on this level.

The odds are heavily stacked against Heaps, he's navigated the first hurdle of gaining a contract after impressing at rookie mini-camp, but that's the equivalent of packing your bags and getting on the plane, with the intention of climbing mount everest. We don't know if he's got the right tools and we don't know if he'll reach base camp, but he's certainly going to try and he's going to give it everything he's got.

I was just grateful and excited to have the opportunity to show what I could do at this level. I didn't have any expectations. I just wanted to make the most of every rep that I got and knew that everything would take care of itself.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. (receiving a professional contract from the Jets) Playing in the NFL has been a dream of mine since I was a kid and to have overcome to obstacles I have in college it meant that much more. Really had to work hard to get to that moment and it felt great to feel like I'm hard work was paying off.

I saw Jake a couple of times at BYU and once at Kansas, so it's been a while since I watched him, however every time I saw him I always felt as though there was a better player behind the average to below average statistics. He's certainly not a big man at just a shade over 6'1 and around 210lb's. He's not very mobile running a 5.08 40 yard dash but there is something there. There is a man that both understands and loves the game of football, a man who is dedicated, articulate and self aware. The task ahead won't be an easy one, but it's one that Jake will run down with everything he has.

Being a NY Jet is a dream come true and I don't take it for granted. I am working hard every day and having a blast with this experience. All I can do is take advantage of every rep and day I get and make the most of it and let the chips fall where they may

I love being a New York Jet and can't wait to get know Jets Nation!

* I'd like to thank Jake Heaps for taking the time out of his schedule to talk to me for this article and wish him the best of luck the rest of the way*