Former Washburn ILB Cody Heiman brings interesting traits to the Packers

When you come out of a small college in Topeka, Kansas with hopes of making it to the NFL, the chances are that those dreams end up unfulfilled. For many, it's a soul-crushing reminder of the realism behind making an NFL roster.

For others, it's more than just a goal. It's $1.6 million dollars just for making the off-season roster - $465,000 of which is guaranteed money. A contract on those terms can set someone up for the rest of their life.

If you're former Washburn linebacker Cody Heiman, who flashed on the small-school circuit and put on display his remarkable physical gifts at the position, there could be even more money in your future.

Heiman was part of the Packers' undrafted free agent haul just last week, bringing his abilities as an inside linebacker to a team with yearly deficiencies at that position.

The Packers have lacked a true playmaker inside and have never really housed a linebacker that can drop into coverage and potentially guard a tight end, or even secure the middle of the field.

It's one of the reasons why the Packers have traditionally been shredded across the middle in recent memory. Just in 2016, they allowed over 70 percent of opponent completions at that area of the field.

While Heiman presents more of a chase-and-tackle mold of what could still prove as a useful component for linebackers coach Winston Moss, there's no ruling out his ability to be coached into new techniques at his spot. Techniques such as shooting gaps and using his 4.63 speed to his advantage.

Heiman already stands out on tape with his ability to close space in what seems like a heartbeat.

Draftanalyst.com praised Heiman mightily for his style of play:

"Explosive run-defending linebacker who will also get consideration at fullback on Sundays. Plays with excellent awareness, quickly reads or anticipates the action and takes proper angles to the play. Forceful up the field, sells out on the blitz and shows an explosive closing burst. Stays with coverage assignments and is effective in zone. Scrapes well laterally and gives effort in all areas. A leader on the field who gets his teammates in proper position."

One player who Heiman stacks up similarly with is former Packers linebacker - and arguably the last top-tier defender at that position - Nick Barnett.

At 6'2", 229, Heiman ran an aforementioned 4.63 40-yard dash, a 6.84 3-cone drill, benched 31 repetitions of the 225-pound bench, has a 36-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 10'02". Heiman's Pro Day helped him stand out amongst other undraftees, however, it wasn't enough to alter his projection of being undrafted.

Barnett, meanwhile, checked into his Combine drills at 6'2", 236 and ran a 4.69 40-yard dash, a 7-second 3-cone, 32 reps of the 225-pound bench press, a 34.5-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 10'03". On paper, it's hard to find much of a difference between the two unless you look at their names.

Not to say Heiman's ceiling is Barnett's eight years of contribution in Green Bay or that it's Abdul Hodge's brief stint, but if there's one undrafted talent to watch, Heiman definitely deserves consideration.

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Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (39)

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Packer_Pete's picture

May 11, 2017 at 05:16 am

Abdul Hodge - now that was a guy I was extremely excited about when they drafted him. Unfortunately never played up to that.

Heiman could be a good find. I am actually not that worried about ILB. Young guys who will get better. And if Heiman fits in there all the better. Can he play OLB? That's where the real need is IMHO...

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The TKstinator's picture

May 11, 2017 at 06:11 am

(Hey ZJ: first couple paragraphs are a little wonky)

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BradHTX's picture

May 11, 2017 at 06:24 am

Specifically, the article cuts off and then repeats from the beginning. Always proofread your work, writers, before hitting that Post button!

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The TKstinator's picture

May 11, 2017 at 06:49 am

Right.

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

May 11, 2017 at 07:02 pm

Fixed. Thanks for letting me know! My laptop doesn't like adding featured images for some reason so I often have to copy all of my text and re-paste it after I refresh the page. Apparently it autosaved - whoops.

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The TKstinator's picture

May 11, 2017 at 06:14 am

Isn't under 7 in the 3-cone considered outstanding?
Looks like a good find! Physical tools, coach him up, see what you get.

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

May 11, 2017 at 06:31 am

Whoa! Really?! All the UDFAs on the 90 man roster just made a guaranteed half-million dollars, and if they make it to September they make 1.5 million?! Is that right?!

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ThxJackVainisi's picture

May 11, 2017 at 10:34 am

No, that's not right. In addition to the convoluted post, Zachary is wrong on compensation. A UDFA doesn't receive any money for making the OFF-season roster (except for the per diem they receive). According to Bob McGinn, Heiman received $5,000 to sign with the Packers. He has to make the opening day roster to receive his $465,000 salary.

BTW, in McGinn's column that mentions the bonus he quotes two scouts, both of which like his athleticism but both also question his instincts.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 11, 2017 at 07:29 pm

To get to $465K guaranteed, the player needs to be a high 4th round pick. Fackrell got $694K guaranteed, while Martinez got $383K guaranteed.

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hodge555's picture

May 13, 2017 at 12:03 pm

To earn the full $465k rookie contract the player needs to be on the 53 roster for the whole season. i.e. they get paid per game/week an amount related to the contract they are on, either a per week share of $465k if on the roster or less if they are on the practise squad.

Also neither Spotrac or OvertheCap is listing any bonus being paid for this player.

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Hematite's picture

May 11, 2017 at 06:46 am

If he is a demon on special teams he just may earn himself a roster spot.
In time he could be a valuable contributor on defense.
I won't be holding my breath however.

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dobber's picture

May 11, 2017 at 07:12 am

I think you're right: special teams and the potential to develop will be his ticket to the 53. With the addition of Jones, and with Brice and Burnett, it could be that they'll be willing to speculate on this guy at the expense of Joe Thomas. Otherwise, I think he's playing for a spot on the PS and a roster spot in 2018.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

May 11, 2017 at 09:17 am

Thomas has instincts and attitude, but his poor athleticism limits him. I put his roster chances this year below 50%.

Maybe this kid can sneak in.

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 11, 2017 at 06:48 am

Heiman is one of the UDFA's I will definitely be watching. His measurable's are really good.

With only Ryan, Martinez and Thomas as true ILB's ahead of him, he does have a chance to make the 53.

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L's picture

May 12, 2017 at 09:19 am

I'll be rooting for him and David Talley to impress.

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croatpackfan's picture

May 11, 2017 at 12:08 pm

You mean Heisman?

Dam I knew there is the catch in form of "s"...

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The TKstinator's picture

May 11, 2017 at 10:25 am

Beat me to it, my Croatian friend!

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Matt Gonzales's picture

May 11, 2017 at 08:09 am

OLB, ILB, and OG/C look like good positions to play if you're coming in as a camp body or UDFA for the Packers this year. If he shows up big I hope they can fit him in the 53 in addition to our returning ILBs. He may have a high ceiling but he's still coming in from a small school and may need more time to develop.

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 11, 2017 at 08:32 am

I would also add RB.
With only Montgomery and Ripkowski as locks, and based on Thompson's history Williams and Jones likely will make the 53. There is still a chance for one of the UDFA's to make the 53.

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Handsback's picture

May 11, 2017 at 08:16 am

If the kid can play like Barnett, it will prove to be a strength verses a weakness in the middle of the field. Depth, is what the Packer's missed last year and this guy could add that depth.

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Andrew Lloyd Peth's picture

May 11, 2017 at 09:21 am

Another Barnett? Doubtful, but I love the thought.

One important thing to remember is much of this depends on playing 3 D-Linemen. We can't have a bunch of light LB's like Heiman running arround behind only 2 big guys.

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Since'61's picture

May 11, 2017 at 10:05 am

I won't be holding my breath that he is another Nitschke.
If he can play as well as Barnett that will have to do for now. Thanks, Since '61

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The TKstinator's picture

May 11, 2017 at 10:28 am

Was Nitschke fast? Sorry, heard a lot about him of course, but never saw him play as he was before my time. Would 66 be a two down LB in today's game?
(No disrespect intended!)

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Since'61's picture

May 11, 2017 at 05:29 pm

TK - As you probably know Nitschke is a HOF linebacker. Also he was selected as the starting MLB for the NFL's All-time first 50 years anniversary team while he was still an active player. He would be a 3 down linebacker because you could not get him off the field even when he was hurt. Beyond his ability to make plays Nitschke was the unquestioned leader of Lombardi's defense. He was a ferocious hitter and a solid tackler. He could cover the TEs and RBs of his time. One of his most famous plays is his coverage of Cleveland's Jim Brown during the 1965 NFL Championship game. He covered Brown (who was one of the fastest RBs in the league) 50 yards downfield to knock away what would have been a TD reception and may have saved the game for the Packers. He could have played in any era. Dick Butkus from the Bears is the only MLB who I ever saw play who might have had a slight edge on Nitschke. Ray gave us everything he had on every play and he played every down. He didn't get tired like today's overpaid prima donnas. I can't remember him ever missing a game or even coming out of a game but I couldn't swear to it without checking. In any case if you saw Nitschke and Lombardi's defense play it would be easier to understand why some of us old-timers get so frustrated with the Packers defense over the last 5-6 seasons. Think about this, in 10 post-season games Lombardi's defense allowed 104 points. That is an average of 10.4 points per game against opposing championship offenses.
1960- 17 points allowed in a 17-13 loss to the Eagles in the NFL Championship
1961- 0 points allowed in a 37-0 defeat of the NYG in the NFL championship
1962- 0 points allowed in a 16-7 defeat of the NYG in the NFL championship
Giants only TD came on a blocked punt recovered in the Packers end zone by the Giants.
Two consecutive NFL Championship games the Packers defense allowed 0 points.
1965 - 10 points allowed in 13-10 OT defeat of the Baltimore Colts in a NFL Western Conference playoff game
1965 - 12 points allowed against the Cleveland Browns with Jim Brown in a 23-12 Packers victory in the NFL Championship
1966 - 27 points allowed in a 34-27 victory over the Cowboys in NFL championship. Both sides played brilliantly on offense.
Packers defense saved the game with a goal line stand and end zone interception during the final 2 minutes.
1966(67) - 10 points allowed in first SB in a 35-10 Packer victory over the KC Chiefs
1967 - 7 points allowed in a 28-7 defeat of the LA Rams in a playoff game
1967 - 7 points allowed in the 21-17 Ice Bowl victory over the Cowboys. Dallas' other 10 points came off a Starr sack/fumble recovered in the end zone and a fumbled punt by Willie Wood but Dallas held to an FG. In fact Dallas scored 10 points in the 2nd quarter without making a first down.
1967(8) - 14 points allowed in SB2 victory over the Oakland Raiders.

I would need to review the Steelers, 49ers, and maybe the Pats but I think I can state unequivocably that Lombardi's Packer defense is the GOAT post -season defense. Different era, sure. But remember the Packers opponents had many HOFs playing at the time. NYG - Tittle, Gifford, Alex Webster on offense, Sam Huff and Andy Robustelli on defense. Cleveland Browns with Jim Brown (enough said) Dallas with Dan Meredith, Bob Hayes, Bob Lilly and others. Chiefs had Lew Dawson at QB. Raiders with Daryle Lamoninca and Fred Biletnikoff. If you could equalize the size and speed between the two eras any of these teams from the 60s would destroy any of today's teams and it wouldn't even be close. All of these teams plus the Steelers, Dolphins, and Raiders had multiple HOFs. How many Patriots will go to the HOF besides Brady, maybe one or two at most. Like I said the games wouldn't be close. Thanks, Since '61

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Finwiz's picture

May 11, 2017 at 11:42 am

Fast enough - he was a FB in college and a heck of an athlete.
Unbelievable player - and yeah I saw him play in person, and on TV of course.

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Finwiz's picture

May 11, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Yeah - you had Ray Nitschke on defense. NO. 66, and Jim Taylor on offense, NO. 31 - two of the meanest SOB's ever to play the game. LOVED IT!
Taylor would get mad at guys when they tackled him the wrong way.
Awesome time, great coach, great players, great teams.

Wish we had two guys like this today.

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Since'61's picture

May 11, 2017 at 03:34 pm

Agree Fin, especially on the defense!
I miss the intensity from that era of the NFL.
Thanks, Since '61

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Finwiz's picture

May 11, 2017 at 03:49 pm

Brings tears to my eyes thinking about those days, and the fact he's gone.
I apologize for last weeks comments, I had a strange week and got in trouble more than once.
You just do you - it's all good.

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Since'61's picture

May 11, 2017 at 03:56 pm

Already forgotten and forgiven. Like you said, it's all good. Thanks, Since '61

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ThxJackVainisi's picture

May 11, 2017 at 12:08 pm

I second Since '61's post. Nitschke was listed at 6'3" 236 lbs. I couldn't find a 40 time but as Since '61 notes, he was plenty fast enough. I think his greatest attribute was he personified the mental toughness Lombardi espoused. He was a mean SOB on the field and my all-time favorite player.

In David Maraniss' great book, "When Pride Still Mattered", he notes Ray's father died when he was three and his mother died when he was thirteen. Ray lived with his older brother on the west side of Chicago and he, "… roamed the streets feeling that the world had been unfair to him and that he wanted to even the score. 'I took it out on everybody else,' he said later. 'A day didn't go by that I didn't belt some other kid in the neighborhood…'" Ray goes on to say he was like that through high school, college, and when he arrived in Green Bay. "I didn't take anything from anybody". Thankfully Ray's wife Jackie convinced him to quit drinking alcohol and that settled him down off the field. And I - and I'm sure all Packers fans - are happy it didn't "settle him down" on the field.

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Since'61's picture

May 11, 2017 at 03:44 pm

DThomas - Maraniss' biography of Lombardi is the best by far of several that I have read. It's one of the best sports Biographies that I have read period. There is a good biography about Nitschke, titled "Nitschke" by Edward Gruver. Gruver is better known for his biography of Sandy Koufax, which is excellent but he did a nice job with Ray as well. I recommend it for Nitschke fans like myself. Like others here I subscribed to Ray Nitschke's Packer report for years. Regrettably he left us all way to early. Lombardi must have needed an MLB in the afterlife. An immortal player. Thanks, Since '61

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worztik's picture

May 11, 2017 at 02:43 pm

Nitschke had outstanding players surrounding him as well!!! The team in general had an incredible number of HOF players. They were a pleasure to watch and when #66 had his front teeth out, he was meaner looking than Jack Lambert and he's another great one!!!! Those were the days when they HIT LIKE REAL MEN!!! Just sayin'...

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Since'61's picture

May 11, 2017 at 03:45 pm

Worztik - they had intensity. No quarter was given and none was asked for. It was football at its essence.
"Nitschke, never had a nickname, never needed one."
Thanks, Since '61

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worztik's picture

May 11, 2017 at 04:49 pm

'61... you and your post nailed it!!! Didn't Lambert and Jack Youngblood, too,, play with broken legs at one time or another? I don't mean after a week off but, in the same game!!! I broke my ankle being stupid in my youth and I can't imagine the toughness these guys had and played with!!! Or was it Freddie Dryer??? Just askin'???

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Since'61's picture

May 11, 2017 at 05:24 pm

I think it was Youngblood,but I would need to check it out to be sure. In any case that was a time of no excuses. Buckle your chin strap and go play. Thanks, Since '61

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MITM's picture

May 11, 2017 at 04:17 pm

If you do a quick google search of Cody Heiman an article from SI.com will show up. Long story short, he was somehow connected to the former Bears strength and conditioning Coach who was there in the early 2000s. I believe he is from where Cody is from or something. His quote was "I had Brian Urlacher in Chicago. Im not saying Cody is Brian Urlacher because he is a once in a lifetime talent, but hes close "

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PatrickGB's picture

May 11, 2017 at 05:38 pm

Wow, MITW that's quite the recommendation. I sort of gave up on that position. Maybe it CAN improve this year and Jones can help cover TE's and RB's. But I doubt Heiman will do anything except ST's.

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JohnnyLogan's picture

May 12, 2017 at 03:47 pm

Simply wrong to say Nitschke couldn't play today. Ray Lewis had nothing on him, and Lewis played in this era. I watched every game of the Lombardi Packers, and the eternal debate over comparing past and present players doesn't fit here. Except for the offensive linemen who would be too small today, I think all those defensive Hall of Fame Lombardi Packers would have been Hall of Famers today. Adderly and Willie Wood were tremendously athletic players who could run and hit and had great football instincts. Wish we had a Nitschke or a Dave Robinson or Willie Davis today. We don't. As for the offense, Taylor was John Riggins only meaner. Hornung was the smartest halfback I ever saw play. Jordy has nothing over Boyd Dowler. As great as Starr was, he isn't as gifted athletically as many of today's QB's so he might not be able to play today, but they didn't think he could play then either until Lombardi put him under center, and he won an awful lot of important games. Fun to play this game.

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JohnnyLogan's picture

May 12, 2017 at 03:48 pm

Oh, and Heiman is my favorite pick to make the team.

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