Nik Heslet’s leadership big reason for Waite’s success

J. Patrick Eaken

Toledo City League Player of the Year Nik Heslet is respected by his coaches, teammates, and the Waite athletic department.

The 6-foot-2, 165-pound senior quarterback led Waite to a 4-2 season and a spot in the City League final four.

“He is a kid with great character, a role model in the community and other kids look up to him,” said Waite first-year coach Aaron Peacock, the City League’s Coach of the Year. 

“He is a guy we always slated as being the guy that the fate of Waite depended on and to make sure that we get across what we wanted to get across as far as coaching. He was the guy who was going to take us over the hump, and he did that this year,” Peacock added.

Heslet said the POY honor was a good way to top off his senior season.

“That felt great. I wasn’t expecting it, but all the hard work pays off,” Heslet said.

The only glitch was that Waite, after defeating Woodward 15-10 during the regular season, lost to the Polar Bears 42-27 in the City semifinal game at Rogers. Waite led 21-6 in the third quarter, but the Polar Bears, who were stricken with multiple first half penalties, cleaned up their act and scored 28 unanswered.

“It was tough. It is what it is, but my kids fought as hard as they could,” Peacock said.

It was by far the most Waite had given up all season, having defeated Rogers 40-8, Scott 43-8 and Bowsher 18-14. The only regular season loss came to Start, 13-2.

In a six-game season, Heslet completed 63 of 109 passes (57.8 percent) for 826 yards and eight touchdowns with five interceptions. He also ran for 126 yards on 27 attempts and four TDs.

Heslet says he could count on multiple receivers — Morrel Jordan caught 22 passes for 265 yards and one TD, Jayven Boose caught 11 passes for 206 yards and three TDs, Jordan Barrett caught 13 passes for 134 yards and one TD, Adrien Brown caught 13 passes for 130 yards and three TDs, Steven Pittman caught three passes for 50 yards, Kristian Harris caught one pass for 19 yards, Larry Mitchell caught two passes for 11 yards and Marcus Grace had two catches for six yards.

“I love my teammates this year,” Heslet said. “They were all dialed in, they were all focused and they were all ready to go, even the young guys.”

Peacock says Heslet and Jordan, a 6-0, 205-pound senior tight end, were driving forces during the 4-1 regular season, including helping the team to wins in close games against Bowsher and Woodward.

“I think it’s just the guys believing in themselves and understanding that they can play with all the other teams in the City League. Before, they would get down, but this year they were resilient and willing to fight through every game,” Peacock said.

“Really, I think Nik Heslet and Morrel Jordan are two kids that I truly believed in and they put the team on their back and actually made sure we were finishing games strong. When we would go into the end of the games, we expect them to actually produce and make big plays when it comes down to it and it counts. With those two being the leaders that they are, the kids responded and actually believed in us,” Peacock continued.

Peacock says the same duo let the defense, too. Heslet is also the City League’s first team place kicker and a second team defensive back and Jordan is a first team linebacker. Up until the defensive collapse late in the City semifinal game, Waite had given up just 53 points in five games.

“It was Morrell Jordan, (6-0, 230-pound senior) Matthew Lamonds, Nik Heslet and all the guys who have been the backbone of our defense,” Peacock said. “I think we gave up the second amount of points.

“Defense was the key — we knew that was going to be our strongpoint and we had a couple defensive touchdowns, but we had forced a lot of turnovers and forced fumbles and everything else. We knew we were going to be fast on defense and we knew we were going to play some strong defense, and that has been the key.”

Heslet was not sure he would get to play football this fall. Early in the fall it appeared that the City League might not have a season because of the coronavirus pandemic, and at least two Waite seniors had already transferred.

“It felt great to get out there to play some football because at the beginning of the year I didn’t think we would have a season. Then, once the games started coming around the excitement was coming out a little bit,” Heslet said.

“This football season was very challenging because of the whole coronavirus thing. We had to start the season and stop the season, and had a whole bunch of stops, and throughout the season we had to go through the procedures for the COVID stuff so we wouldn’t get knocked out for it and stuff like that. It was a very challenging year — definitely different than other years.”

Heslet hopes to play collegiately, but fears that the shortened season, lack of attendance, and having played only City League teams will hurt his prospects.

“He hasn’t made any plans — he has been on a couple college visits, had a couple calls from coaches to see where he might want to go, but his plans are to go on to play college football,” Peacock said. “He does not think it will be quarterback, but a receiver or maybe a safety, but he is not going to pass up any opportunity that is given to him.”


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