Over the next week, GoDuke.com will honor the seven 2013 Duke Athletics Hall of Fame inductees with their own Hall of Fame Spotlight, a seven-question interview that covers their time at Duke, the people that most influenced their remarkable careers, their advice to current student-athletes, and more.
Next up, legendary Duke soccer player, Jay Heaps. Heaps earned National Player of the Year honors from the Missouri Athletic Club in 1998 as a member of Duke’s soccer team. A two-time All-America, four-time All-ACC and four-time All-ACC Tournament selection, he helped the Blue Devils to a four-year record of 61-23-1 by totaling 127 career points on 45 goals and 37 assists. Also a four-year member of Duke’s basketball team, Heaps was named second team Academic All-America and was honored as the Scholar Athlete of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America in 1998. He went on to an 11-year playing career in Major League Soccer, garnering the Rookie of the Year citation in 1999 and at the time of his retirement, ranked among the league’s all-time leaders in matches played (3rd; 314), minutes played (3rd; 27,363) and matches started (4th; 299). On November 15, 2011, Heaps was named the head coach of the New England Revolution.
GoDuke.com: Who had the most influence on you during your time at Duke?
Jay Heaps: That’s a tough one, because I played two sports. I’d have to say Coach K and Coach Rennie really influenced my time. Coach Rennie was the reason why I’m here and then developed me into a soccer player that could go play professionally. Now, as a coach, in my second career, everything I learned from Coach K is paying dividends for me.
GoDuke.com: What was your proudest sports-related moment at Duke?
JH: Making it to the 1995 NCAA Championship for soccer. I think we beat Virginia. They’d won five in a row and were going for number six. We knocked them out in the final four to go to the final. That, to me, was a pretty special moment. Here on campus, we beat James Madison to go to the final four and I remember it being on that field. We were down 2-0 and we came back to win 3-2, and that, to me, was probably the most special moment.
GoDuke.com: What was your fondest memory of Duke outside of sports?
JH: With the great students that come here, you develop unbelievable relationships, but to me, the school has always been special. I think of my mother, because my mother passed away about a year ago and she came to so many games, she and my father, so the memories I have of the school are a lot of her being there, whether it was at the game, or popping into my dorm room, or on campus going to lunch. Those memories, to me, mean a lot. The fact that they were something I could share with my mom is really special.
GoDuke.com: What advice would you give to current Duke student-athletes?
JH: Enjoy it. I’m sure they hear that a lot. It goes by fast. But live the moment. Enjoy the wins. Feel the losses. Those hurt, and you want them to hurt, because you can’t get these four years back. I used to always say that I would give up a long, professional soccer career for one more season of playing for Duke and playing at Duke. Everyone’s goals are aligned. It’s truly the embodiment of a team, because everyone has one focus. There’s no shoe deals, no bonuses for goals scored. It’s really a team atmosphere. The student athletes here have a great opportunity. You really might be thinking of the next thing, but you need to lose yourself in the moment, and that’s playing for a great school.
GoDuke.com: What is your reaction when you hear your name and “Duke Athletics Hall of Famer” in the same sentence?
JH: I’m humbled and honored. I always felt this school gave me a heck-of-a-lot more than I gave this school. Great teachers, great students, amazing coaches, and really just being a part of that formed me, at an age where you’re developing who you are as a person and as a man. The school gave me so much in that regard.
GoDuke.com: What separates Duke from other schools athletically?
JH: I think quite a few things. I think, first and foremost, it’s the student-athletes that come here. There’s a focus and an energy around that. You can work at what you want to do, athletically, but you also have to be really good academically. That in itself brings out a unique kind of student-athlete. I think you’re given every opportunity to win and I think that’s important as well, when you’re a student-athlete and you’re trying to make it. I think it’s really important to have the ability to go above and beyond and the athletic department definitely does that.
GoDuke.com: Why did you choose Duke?
JH: I’m from right outside of Boston, so it came down to Duke and Harvard. I came down for one more visit to Duke, and it was the students. Where you see yourself fitting in with the students. That was important. Not just the players on the teams, but being around their friends. I really felt a similarity and a bond right away. They were people I could see myself learning with and growing with.