At some point before preseason camp — Texas Longhorns sophomore wide receiver Jerrod Heard doesn’t quite remember when — the team’s starting quarterback for 10 games during the 2015 season went up to head coach Charlie Strong and made a courageous decision.
He told Strong that he wanted to change positions.
"Okay, big dog, what position do you want to play?" asked Strong.
The answer was wide receiver, a position Heard spent time practicing at over the summer after a shoulder injury cemented his spot as the third-string quarterback by keeping him out for the second half of spring practice.
"I didn't fight against it," Heard said Tuesday. "Really I was ready for the transition myself, so I felt like it would be a positive thing for me and for my future. So I was all for it and ready to go."
Thing is, Heard knew what it was like to spent a year on the bench after redshirting during Strong’s first season at Texas in 2014 after arriving as the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country in the 247Sports Composite rankings and the crown jewel of the class that Strong held together.
It was hard at times and there were reports that Heard’s attention flagged as he adjusted to sitting on the bench.
"I did it for a whole year so I got to feel how it feels," he said. "Redshirting is different, but it's a humbling thing and you do want to do things to get yourself out there."
Unwilling to spend another year on the bench, Heard made a decision that many quarterbacks reject in favor of simply transferring — he took action to get himself on the field.
"I do feel like I've got to be out there. I do feel like I've got to contribute to this team and just be in that depth as a reliable guy."
Heard already hard a start on the reliability thing since he’d already worked at the position, all while improving his speed and strength over the summer while he was rehabbing shoulder surgery. A fantastic athlete who gained 4,949 yards rushing and scored 67 touchdowns in high school, Heard posted a 4.59 40-yard dash at The Opening in 2013, as well as a 33.1-inch vertical leap.
Based on some flashes out of practice, it seems safe to assume that Heard has improved both of those numbers during his time at Texas.
Not yet projected as a starter in the slot, Heard is nevertheless making plays for the ‘Horns in practice, flashing his lateral quickness in practice video scoring a touchdown with an inside cut that fooled several defenders and a quick spin outside on a hitch to make freshman safety Brandon Jones whiff badly.
Those weren’t even the most impressive plays, however, as one practice shot and eventual video showed Heard showing off an incredible vertical adjusting to an underthrown pass from senior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and high pointing a football just as two defenders closed on him.
On Saturday, during the team’s second scrimmage of fall camp, Heard got separation against sophomore nickel back PJ Locke and scored a 50-yard touchdown on a go route courtesy of a beautiful touch pass from freshman quarterback Shane Buechele that hit Heard deep in stride, prompting a celebratory end-zone dance from the newest addition to the Texas wide receivers corps.
"The transition is going good," Heard said, stating what was already rather obvious.
"Right now I'm enjoying it, loving every minute of it."
One minute that Heard didn’t love so much was the moment when his black jersey finally come off in practice for the first time in three years. Linebackers Malik Jefferson and Tim Cole were vocally salivating about the opportunity. Among others.
"The day they took the black jersey away, I'm not going to lie, I was kind of scared because the DBs, they loved it. And the linebackers loved it."
They’d been praying for that moment, they said.
"That day, it was pretty intense," Heard said. "I got hit a few times and I got to lay some hits on them. It was real fun though."
Now he’s ready to take the field against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in 11 days and get a chance to make plays at his new position. He thinks the offense will put him in a strong position to do so.
"There's so much stuff that we do with this offense, personnel-wise and scheme-wise," he said. "It's unreal what we do now. I'm ready to go and ready to see how it all plays out and excited."
Heard even suggested, as his head coach did on Saturday, that he could see some time at quarterback in a Wildcat package.
"I’d like to see all three of us run out there."
Now there’s something for the Fighting Irish to think about.