MANHATTAN — Manhattan Tigers special teams coach Ty Heaps is using his military experience to help the undefeated Tigers make a Class B football state championship run.
“He’s always got that never-quit mentality and that shows off in the games that we play,” said Manhattan kicker Drew Deming.
Being a veteran, Heaps' experience brings plenty to offer that the Tigers can use to help better themselves.
“Coach Heaps is great, he brings a lot of energy, passion to our team, a lot of discipline," said Manhattan head coach Chris Grabowska. "He’s a Marine vet, so he brings that credibility to our team. ... Guys really look up to him and he’s just a great motivator for the kids as well.”
Heaps joined the Marine Corps reserve in 2011. He spent time all over the U.S. with stints in Serbia and Ukraine training European forces as well. He left the military a few years ago, achieving the rank of sergeant.
“I think the biggest reason I joined was a sense of duty -- we’re a very patriotic family and just felt like it was my job to serve," Heaps said. "Glad I did it and when it was time to get out it was time to get out. I think most guys know that, very thankful for the time I had in, very thankful for the brotherhood and friendships I had there, those are things that will never be replaced and will continue."
Traveling around the world gives most young men and women a different perspective on the world around them.
“It keeps you grounded," said Heaps. "You recognize what you have, you recognize where you may be lacking. My favorite thing about travel is it introduces a man to himself. It gives you perspective that’s greater than what you saw in your little bubble. Whether you realize it or not, you’re kind of in a box and once you step outside that you become who you you’re meant to be and you discover your blind spots and you get to go after those things.”
Many things from the military translate to the football field.
“Being mentally strong," said Heaps. "That’s the biggest thing that plays over into sports, football especially. It’s a brutal sport, it’s a contact sport. I think in terms of coach that’s the thing I bring the most, is how do we increase their mental strength.”
Adverse situations veterans dealt with in the military can be used to help players overcome difficulties thrown their way.
“I usually use something that I learned in the Marine Corps or situation that I can bring into the present and say, 'This is what worked for me, why don’t you give this a shot?' And I think that can resonate with the boys on a different level," Heaps said.
Heaps' time in the military as a leader has helped him understand individual players and the roles they should have on the team, which, for one player, has meant everything.
“He mentored me, I guess you could say, and now I really love the sport," Deming said. "Definitely, the best sport I’ve ever played in my entire life and I think he’s the reason for that. He’s the best coach I’ve ever had.”
Coach Heaps, thank you for you service and Semper Fi.