Nov. 2, 2006
By Craig Chval
Jerome Heavens took Notre Dame by storm and he's used a similar approach since he graduated Notre Dame more than 25 years ago.
As a freshman in 1975, Heavens rushed for 756 yards and 5.9 yards per carry to establish a Notre Dame freshman rushing record that stood until Darius Walker ran for 786 yards on 185 carries (4.2 yards per carry) in 2004. Still the fifth-leading career rusher in Notre Dame history, Heavens continues to hold Notre Dame's record for rushing yards in a single game by a freshman (148 yards in 18 carries against Georgia Tech).
After spending a couple of years pursuing a career in professional football, Heavens landed a sales position with Anheuser-Busch. Rather than work in his hometown market, home of Anheuser-Busch's corporate headquarters and where Budweiser is the undisputed king, the St. Louis native opted to work the Chicago market, where Anheuser-Busch was number four.
Nearly 25 years later, Anheuser-Busch is a strong number two in Chicago, and Heavens jokes, "I've sold more Budweiser in Chicago than anyone but (late Chicago Cubs broadcaster) Harry Caray."
While Heavens still may be chasing number one in Chicago, he and his teammates reached the pinnacle in 1977, as Notre Dame won the national championship. During that season, Heavens became the first Notre Dame player ever to rush for 200 yards in a single game (200 yards vs. Army). He also fell just short of becoming the second player in Notre Dame history to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season (994).
As a senior, Heavens was elected a captain of the '78 squad along with Joe Montana and Bob Golic. After an 0-2 start the Irish rallied to win eight straight to win a berth in the Cotton Bowl, where Montana's heroics became the stuff of legend.
Despite all of the personal and team accomplishments Heavens experienced at Notre Dame, he looks back with the most pride at his degree in economics. After struggling in the classroom early in his career, Heavens graduated in three-and-one-half years.
"I was the first in my family to graduate from a place like Notre Dame, and it was great to see how my family looked up to that," he says, giving special credit to his mother for influencing his decision to attend Notre Dame.
"I wish I could turn back the hands of time and do it all over again," Heavens says.
Heavens remains close to his family. In addition to his wife Patti, he spends lots of time with his grown sons, and his parents and two siblings in the St. Louis area.
He also remains very passionate about Notre Dame, being involved in the Notre Dame Club of Chicago - and never missing a game on television.
"I'm the biggest fan for Notre Dame - and not only the athletes," he says. "I tried my best to be a part of a great institution, and I feel extremely honored to have been a part of Notre Dame."