MIAMI — Tommy Heatherly has pretty much reinvented himself.
The Northeastern Oklahoma A&M sophomore kicker from Grove went through a summer of intensive workouts.
“I had a talk with Coach Allen (Norse head coach Zach Allen) in my exit meeting in the spring and he told me that I have a D1 leg and that I needed to lose a little weight and to be in good shape since I was going to be doing a lot of kicking next season,” Heatherly said. “Over the summer, I went on a heavy diet. I ran every day. I lifted every day. I stretched and kicked. I lost just about 65 pounds in about an eight-month period.
“All my old clothes fit me now.”
The 5-11 Heatherly now tips the scales at 210 pounds.
“It’s always been a lifelong dream of mine to play at the next level and to be part of a program like this. It’s unreal,” he said. “To get that kind of pressure put on me motivates me to do the best I can all the time.”
Riley Hathhorn from Broken Arrow grabbed Heatherly’s starting job a couple games into the 2017 season.
Heatherly made only one of his three field goal attempts and converted on five of eight extra point tries before being replaced.
Hathhorn went on to be a key figure in NEO’s run to a Southwest Junior College Football Conference title and a spot in the inaugural Midwest Bowl Classic here.
Hathhorn, who earned NJCAA special teams player of the week honors for Week 11, now is at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin.
“He (Heatherly) came out of camp as a starter then was replaced within a couple weeks,” Allen said. “I think that hit home with him. He has a better leg than just about anybody we’ve had here. That means something, because we’ve had four or five Division I kicker-punter specialists. They leave a pretty tough legacy to live up to.”
Heatherly said he doesn’t feel any added pressure.
“I think I am going to thrive with it honestly,” Heatherly said. “I did all three all through my four years in high school, even as a freshman. It makes me have a chip on my shoulder, not having a backup. I just have to stay healthy and do the best I can to help make our team successful.”
Ironically, the last extra point Heatherly kicked in high school was at Robertson Field during a 51-19 win over Miami High School and his first as a college player came here in a 40-7 romp over New Mexico Military Institute.
Heatherly had three head coaches in his four years as a Ridgerunner: Dennis Millikin, Mike Loyd and Ron Culwell.
Loyd, now head coach at Rogers, Arkansas, guided the Golden Norsemen to their last national championship in 1991.
Heatherly said Loyd, who played in the NFL, CFL and USFL before going into coaching, helped him improve as a kicker.
“He held me more accountable than any coach had ever done,” said Heatherly, who learned how to punt from his grandmother and nailed his first field goal when 8. “The stuff he did kinda got me ready for college. He was pretty hard on me. He would make every field goal like it was the last one I was ever going to make.”
The Golden Norsemen, ranked eighth in the NJCAA preseason poll, open their season Thursday, Aug. 30 at Red Robertson Field.
“I think this is the season that I am going to do something pretty special,” Heatherly said. “I have been waiting and waiting. I did do kickoffs last year, which was great with me because I was playing college football. There is nothing like it. Now the fact that I get to do everything — field goals, punts and kickoffs — I get to be a part of the action every time. I am just so blessed for it.”
“We always look for guys that buy into NEO and over the last six, seven or nine months, he has done that,” Allen said.