Deerfield running back Quentin Heard, right, was a big part of the Knights’ 13-0 state title team a year ago, gaining 943 yards on just 130 carries and more than 300 yards in punt returns with 13 total touchdowns. He’s on his way to a 1,000-yard season this year, already gaining 467 yards and catching passes worth 111 yards this year to lead DWS to a 4-1 start.
ALBANY -- Quentin Heard's favorite subject is math.
"Because it's either a right or wrong answer,'' he said. "Life is more of a discussion. You have to think outside the box.''
Heard's life has been more of a long-winded discussion, a running river of conversation about where he is and who he is, bending, turning and rising and falling.
Getting to know Quentin Heard: The Dynamite 'Half-Dozen' Q&A
New this year, a half-dozen questions for our Dynamite Dozen players about their likes off the football field:
Q: What's your favorite food?
A: "Lasagna. My mother's lasagna was amazing.''
Q: What's your favorite movie?
A: "Forrest Gump. It's Forrest Gump, all day, every day. That movie has everything.''
Q: Who is your favorite entertainer (movie star, comedian, singer etc)?
A: "Shia LeBeouf. I used to watch him on the Disney Channel in Even Stevens and then in the Transformer movies.''
Q: Who is your favorite NFL player?
A: "Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. They are both amazing. I can't imagine the league without them.''
Q: If you were stranded on an island, who would you want to be with you?
A: "Scarlett Johansson.''
Q: Who is the person you owe everything to?
A: "My mother. And my father, too. Both of them together.''
That's life when you're in a military family and you're constantly moving every few years, picking up and starting over again. That might be why Heard, who plays running back and linebacker at Deerfield-Windsor, can adapt so well on the run -- either on the football field or in his every day life.
He knows how to change direction in both.
You can't watch Heard, who is a Herald Dynamite Dozen selection, play the game without thinking of versatility. He's dripping with it.
"He's versatile in so many ways,'' DWS coach Allen Lowe said. "If we had to, we could play him in the secondary, at fullback or even at quarterback. He plays outside linebacker and running back for us, and I almost forgot, he (even) played tight end as a sophomore.''
Versatile? How about he even does a Bill Cosby impersonation.
He can ham it up with the best of them, tossing out a variety of wacky voices that keep his teammates laughing off the field, and he's got the voice in the huddle -- that energetic, hustling, encouraging voice that pushes and prods everyone around him.
"He's fun to block for,'' DWS center Parks Pace said. "He's always upbeat and humble. He's always thanking the line. He's really funny off the field, but he's very serious on the field. He's a different person.''
Sometimes you have to be. Heard knows that.
He's gone through so much in the past few years. He speaks in soft, adoring tones when he talks about his mother, Tina Heard, who lost her battle with breast cancer last December.
"I owe so much to her,'' he said. "She was great. She was definitely a motivator. I wouldn't be what I am today without her.
"I have thought about doing something (to honor her while on the field) ... Maybe on the field. I'm going to wear pink socks, or wear pink something all through the month of October to honor her.''
Deerfield has helped Heard's pain.
"It's just him and I,'' said Heard's father, Marine Col. Drexel Heard, whose two oldest sons are in their 20s and live in other states. "His mother died last year, and being here (at Deerfield) has (been good for him). The people here are phenomenal as far as family values, not just in football but everything. Being in a smaller school, this kind of environment. This is where he needed to be.''
Heard's parents made the decision to send their son to DWS when the family arrived from Illinois when Quentin was a sophomore. They wanted their son to be in a close-knit environment, one that would bring the best out of him.
"I wanted him to have more of a challenge academically,'' Heard's father said. "I liked the idea of him being at a smaller school.''
Quentin accepted the challenge academically. He has a 3.1 GPA and is planning on becoming a chemical engineer.
Still, it was a difficult time for Heard, who hated the idea of leaving O'Fallon, Ill., a town in Southern Illinois with one huge public school.
Heard was the quarterback on the freshman team for the Class 7-A Panthers, who are a football power in Illinois, where they are currently ranked fourth in the biggest classification poll in the state.
"It was hard leaving there,'' Quentin said. "I had so many friends, and there was one high school in the city, not like here where you have four (public) schools in Albany. I loved it there. Yeah, I cried. I cried hard when we left.''
The Heards, who live in Lee County, looked at two schools when they arrived: Lee County and Deerfield.
"I went to Lee County to see the school when I got here, and I met the football coach (Dean) Fabrizio. He told me to come by and watch their practice," Quentin recalled. "I was going to do it, but my dad had already decided I was going to Deerfield. He had already sent the check.''
Then Quentin felt right at home when he met former headmaster W.T. Henry.
"I met Mr. Henry and that was it,'' he said. "The second person I met was (DWS grad) Andre Young. He was playing at Clemson, and I was definitely impressed.''
But what really impressed Heard was his new team.
"I was planning on playing at O'Fallon,'' he said. "I had 18 touchdowns as a freshman, and had already talked to the (varsity) coach.
"But the football team was so much different here. It's like a family. The way we huddle after the games and pray and the way the team is so close. It was so much different here. O'Fallon didn't have that family feeling. I had always moved around, but leaving O'Fallon was the hardest because I had so many friends, and I had a girlfriend. But it was much easier coming here than other places, and it was definitely because of football. These guys welcomed me with open arms. It was great.''
He has fit in better than anyone could have expected. Heard played as a sophomore, and was a big factor in last year's 13-0 perfect state title season as a running back and linebacker. He gained 943 yards on just 130 carries (a 7.25 yards per carry average), and caught 13 passes for 130 yards, and had more than 300 yards in punt returns. He scored 13 touchdowns. He's on his way to a 1,000-yard season. He has already gained 467 yards and caught passes worth 111 yards this year.
And he's a force at linebacker.
"He's got very good instincts,'' DWS defensive coordinator Rod Murray said. "He's very strong and very talented. He almost never loses leverage. When a play bounces outside, he's always there. And when he tackles them, they go down And a linebacker is like a quarterback, and he is one of our leaders. It's hard to take him off the field.''
Murray said Heard is just as tough when he runs the ball.
"If we were defending him, we wouldn't try tackling him above the waist,'' Murray said. "He is very strong and would run right through it. He's a powerful runner.''
Hunter Bretel, a senior defensive end at DWS, said he would hate to have to play defense against Heard.
"He can catch. He can run you over, or he can run around you. He's like Booby Miles (from the movie "Friday Night Lights"). He's just explosive. You know when he's got the ball that something is going to happen,'' Bretel said. "There's never a play when he runs into someone. He's going to make something happen.''
They're still buzzing about a 30-yard catch Heard made last week.
"Last week against Brentwood he was double-teamed, and he made a catch right between them,'' Bretel said. "I don't know how he caught it. He was diving right between them and caught it.''
Lowe said he had to look twice.
"I don't know how he made that catch,'' Lowe said. "One guy was in front of him and another behind him and a third guy was right there. But he made the catch.''
Everyone talks about the big runs Heard has had at DWS, and Lowe pointed out that in the playoff run last year it was Heard who pounded the ball late in the quarterfinals against Westfield, and it was Heard who had the big breakaway 35-yard TD run late in the game a week later against Mount de Sales in the state semifinal.
"He runs with power and speed,'' the DWS coach said. "He's a good student, a good leader, and I'm thankful he's a good football player. He's special off the field as well as on the field. He's been through adversity in his life with the death of his mother last year. He's a great kid.''