Not too long ago Payton Heidtke was a local kid, playing for St. Mary’s Fighting Irish with aspiration of playing for Marian Central, when life through him a bit of a curveball as him and his family moved to Massachusetts and life started anew for Payton. Since that day, that probably feels like it was yesterday, Payton has gone on to excel in both the classroom and the field of competition. Payton was a 2018 Andover High School graduate in Andover, Massachusetts. Heidtke earned 3 Varsity letters and was a two-year starter Andover High School. He help lead Andover to three playoff-qualifying teams and a state semi-final team. Heidtke was a two-time All-Merrimack Valley selection, two-time Eagle Tribune All-Star, Boston Herald All-Star and Boston Globe All-Star. Payton also earned four-varsity letters in wrestling and was a state place winner in heavyweight was a 4-year player in club rugby…with all that finding time to be on the Honor Roll.
Now, at Bryant University, Payton finds himself on a new team, in a new town once again, competing for a starting position. A familiar spot for this young athlete. Payton took some time to sit down with us and talk about East Coast football, being a Bears fan in Patriots country and what it is like being a student athlete, competing everyday….
Tell me about your football journey: I began playing football when I was eight years old. I started playing as a bantam for the Fighting Irish, the first position I played was guard because I was too big to play anything other than guard or center. I chose football as it was prominent in my life. My dad was a youth football coach, I was named after Walter Payton, and most importantly I loved the competitive aspect of the game. It was fun to get together with friends and play football, everyone would be working hard with only one goal in mind. The team would be there to pick you up after a bad play, and congratulate you on good ones, the camaraderie in football nationwide is why I chose football.
What was your favorite memory of playing as a kid? My favorite memory of playing football as a kid was seeing my family after games in the stands or waiting by the fence to greet me once I walked off the field at Marian Central Catholic High School. The biggest differences between Illinois and Massachusetts would be how fast everything seemed to move after I had gone to Massachusetts. The competition was the same, but my year in middle school and the four years I spent in high school flew by, it goes by faster than you can imagine so it is important to take every bit of what you experience in otherwise you’ll miss it.
What is the hardest part of picking up and moving out of state as a young athlete? Not knowing anyone and starting on a new team was helpful for college looking back. In the moment there were difficult times, but I knew that I needed to work my hardest to make a name for myself. At the same time I was meeting many new people, this became incredibly helpful for college as different camps are all about being the hardest working athlete to make a name for yourself with the coaches. The people skills I had learned were useful in both interviews with coaches, as well as meeting my teammates. I believe it is very important to push yourself to the best of your ability, and even more meaningful long term to do that in an uncomfortable situation.
How do you deal with being homesick with family in 2 states? I get most homesick when I think of my family that remains in both Massachusetts and Illinois. I’ve called my parents frequently to see how everything is going at the house, I have also called my grandparents a couple times. I’ve been lucky enough to see my grandparents on a couple occasions, and my family multiple times at football games.
So, what is college football like every day? Football at the next level is a constant battle. Competition is involved in every aspect of life, from eating in the lunchroom, to competing in the weight room, and battling weekly for a starting spot on the field.
What is the hardest part of being a student athlete? Time management is another difficult task, especially between school work and football. One important thing I do to stay on top of my school work without worrying about my grades during practice is attend mandatory and monitored study hours. The team requires this unless you maintain a grade of 3.0 or better. To be able to sit down and do my work each day with no distractions is keeping me on the right track.
What is the greatest thing about being a Bulldog? The greatest thing about playing football at Bryant University is the number of connections I can see it is already possible to make through football. Both the President of the University and the Athletic Director were former collegiate football players. Many positions of power, such as the CEO of GE, played football. If I have an opportunity for work and can find my CEO, Manager, or President of the company played football, that is a starting point that I have to relate to them. It also shows my work ethic by being able to overcome difficulties faced in college football.