Myles Heard: Path To The NFL Draft

By Simon Carroll

Physicality, regardless of size or stature, is non-negotiable in football. The most vicious of team contact sports, big hits are an inevitability whether you give or receive them. And for the past five years, you’ll struggle to find another defensive back who has dished out more punishment than Myles Heard. The tough tackling LA Tech safety sits down with Simon Carroll to discuss his path to the NFL Draft.

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Myles Heard

As far as sporting cities go, Houston is up there with the biggest and best of them. So it was a fitting place for young Myles Heard to grow up; a talented athlete from an early age, he embraced any sport that came his way. Surprisingly, football came slightly later than you would expect.

“In Houston, you are surrounded by sports! My dad is from Dallas, my mom actually from El Salvador, and they encouraged me to get out there and enjoy myself as much as possible. The first sport I actually played was soccer, played it until I was six years old. About that time I transitioned to basketball, and that lasted until I was about twelve. So I guess you could say I picked up on football late compared to others, maybe around sixth or seventh grade – and I kinda just ran with it ever since.”

Like a lot of kids, Heard had visions of being a star running back – and beginning his career at that position, he showed he had the talent to back up that dream. 9 yards a carry and 14 touchdowns at Dulles High School will attest to that. And yet, it was a switch to safety that really showed what he was capable of on a football field:

“That was my primary position until I switched my sophomore year – my first year on varsity. I kinda flipped to safety to see what I could do, and I performed well there so stuck with it. It was kinda both mine and my coach’s idea – I was always pretty good at defense; I could tackle and all that. I just happened to be on offense at that time. But then circumstances changed, the team needed someone at safety, and I really wanted to test myself at that position. But I’m still a running back at heart!”

The move to defense turned out to be an inspired decision; Heard was a two-time defensive MVP with the Vikings, and won defensive back of the year twice. With all-district honors scattered in there as well, it wasn’t long before he began attracting some attention from college scouts – and he did everything to put himself in the shop window:

“After that sophomore year at safety, I generated some noise at college camps. Hearing what the coaches had to say at those camps, praising my film, it kinda clicked with me – I knew I had it in me to go and play at the next level. And I wanted it bad you know – I went to a lot of camps, pretty much all the local ones in Houston. UT, LSU, UH, TCU – any school holding a camp nearby, I was there. I even went to Nebraska and UCLA – I left no stone unturned!”

Settling On SFA

Despite the success in a city that has plenty of attention when it comes to high school football, Myles Heard was only ranked as a two-star recruit. From the six offers he received, the only FBS interest came from the military academies. Heard was appreciative that he had an opportunity to play at the next level, but also hungry to prove he was worthy of more recognition:

“I kinda entertained the military academy option for a little bit. I didn’t really know much of it, what went into it. It definitely made me think about it, getting those offers. But the recruiting process for me was my first real taste of adversity – you see the numbers I had put up at Dulles, I really thought I would generate a little bit more interest than I got. It is was it was, and I was definitely grateful for the offers I had – in fact, they were that little bit more special I guess, there being just a handful of them. Some guys don’t even have stars as a recruit – I had two which gave me something to work with. It was an experience when you’re so young, but I definitely learned a lot from it. It really made me a better player – it gave me that motivation to improve every year.”

Heard ultimately ended up eschewing offers from Air Force and Army, instead deciding to have a more conventional college experience. That meant playing at the FCS level with Stephen F Austin, a home-state school two hours north in Nacogdoches. Myles recalls how he ended up becoming a Lumberjack:

“We had an event going on in Houston called ‘The Touchdown Club’. It was an awards ceremony, and I was nominated for best defensive player in the city. At that event, certain college coaches were there, keeping an eye on the best talent. Each award, they played the highlight tape for each nominee – and whilst I didn’t get the award, after the event ended the coaches from SFA said they liked the film, exchanged information with me and told me they’d be in touch. Two days later, they offered me a scholarship. That was memorable – they didn’t hesitate in pulling the trigger on me. That, and how local they were to home, it was a no brainer for me.”

Team & Player Evolution

Unlike a lot of freshmen, Heard didn’t redshirt his first year on campus. That said, his coaches eased him into the action; a slow exposure that the young safety was grateful for:

“The first season, 2019, I didn’t start any games, but I saw some snaps off the bench and featured heavily on special teams. As a freshman, 18 years old, it’s going to take some time to get acclimated to the college speed. Different coverages, different plays, it’s a lot to embrace. I appreciated the chance to do that my first year on the fly, rather than be redshirted. It was definitely a season of growth in that aspect. I sat behind the starter, watched him like a hawk – what he did well, what he could do better. I really learned a lot that year – made it my mission to use it well, so when I got the chance to start, I was ready to execute.”

Myles was more than ready, and put it fully on display as a sophomore; 50 tackles, two interceptions and three forced fumbles indicate the kind of playmaker he was developing into. A versatile piece in Scott Power’s secondary, his role had a lot of responsibility – but Heard met the challenge:

“So I played a lot of what you would call boundary or box safety at SFA, but in that scheme it was very fluid; a lot of free safety and strong safety – you could rotate and play the post. Basically your classic split safety which you see in the NFL on some defenses. 2020, I was ready. I had a great year, really felt like I’d arrived at that level. I’ll never forget playing UTSA that year. I was in the zone! They were FBS, we were FCS, and I really locked in, to prove that we could compete at the same level, play on the same field. I had 12 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble that day. That was my breakout moment. After that, I never looked back.”

Heard delivered more of the same in 2021 – and as he grew, so did the team. His first year on campus coincided with that of head coach Colby Carthel – and as a part of the new regime, Myles helped the Lumberjacks transform from a 3-9 record that first season to making the FCS playoffs by year three. Looking back, Heard is unsurprisingly proud to be a part of the transformation:

“That 3-9 season was rough. We knew we weren’t a 3-9 team, we were better than that. A lot of those games, we just lost close ones. And losing is tough you know – it wears on you. But that’s one of the things I’m most proud of you know, when I look back; as a team, we all agreed that we weren’t going to feel like that ever again. That 3-9 feeling, we weren’t having it. We honed in, turned the culture around from top to bottom; be it in the weight room, showing up on time for class, all the small things that add up, we all bought in. And you saw it in the results – a step up in 2020, then 2021 we get to the playoffs. The leadership, accountability role I took in that turnaround – it fills me with pride when I think about it.”

Stepping Up

By the end of 2022, Myles Heard was a bonafide playmaker on the Lumberjacks defense, racking up stats that would be dizzying to a linebacker, let alone a safety. 200 tackles told him he had achieved what he came to do at SFA, and was ready for a new test:

“I figured I needed to challenge myself further. Coach Power, my defensive coordinator in 2021, he had headed to LA Tech the year before. I felt like I had proved myself at the FCS level, and I was confident I could ball at the FBS level too. The games I played against the big schools told me that. I was ready.”

Heard is a man with conviction. Much like when he was a high school recruit, he made a transfer decision quickly. Entering the portal on 5th December 2022, it took him just three weeks to find his new home in Ruston, LA. As far as Myles was concerned, becoming a Bulldog was an easy choice:

“The decision was simple for me. The opportunity to fit in quickly in my final year of eligibility with a coach I had immense respect for – a man I could repay with good performances in a system I was familiar with – it was the safest choice. In the portal I got plenty of interest; other teams reached out, which I was grateful for. Ultimately, it was about being smart and putting myself in the best position to do well.”

The scenery may have been different, but the recipe for success was the same. A seamless transition to the FBS was the result – if anything, Heard made it look easy. And he helped his new teammates too:

“Same role – boundary, free, that very fluid split safety position that I knew I could do. I was the leader of the defense somewhat by default, despite only coming in that season. I wasn’t playing with the same guys but it was the same system, and I could help my new teammates understand it better. A lot of guys came out of the portal to LA Tech at the same time as me, but they had some work to do to fit in. They would come to me if they needed any help with different things – I embraced that leadership role.”

A Career To Be Proud Of

Myles Heard

Myles Heard made the notion of a gulf between FCS and FBS football look ridiculous. His one year at LA Tech, Heard led the team in tackles – as a safety. His effortless transition validated his decision to transfer, and showed himself and the watching world that playing football on Sundays was very much on the table:

“I was confident going in, but the result of that last year at LA Tech showed I could play at that level. I got 88 tackles, but I really should have hit that 100 mark – I missed two games, which probably stopped me from reaching that milestone. But I definitely felt vindicated in my decision to transfer – and it gave me even more belief that I had the game to play in the NFL too.”

As ferocious he is on the field, Heard cuts a relaxed figure off it. Gregarious and eloquent, he takes time to consider what he’s most proud of in his time at college. And whilst others may look for stock, ‘correct’ answers they think scouts want to hear – getting a qualification, giving back to the community, becoming a leader etc. – it’s refreshing to hear an alternative viewpoint on a collegiate career that very few people get to experience:

“I think a lot of people from the outside looking in, they might not realize that – just being a college player, playing at that level is an achievement. Only one percent of high school kids make it to the FBS, and it’s easy to forget how big it is not just to get there, but to put up the numbers I did. I did it correctly, handled myself well, and it’s satisfying when you watch the film and see yourself playing at a high level. I’m blessed to be in this position – that’s not lost on me. Yeah, I’m fully focused on a professional career right now, but I won’t ever forget what I’ve achieved already.”

NFL Preparations

Myles Heard has taken that pro career focus back to Houston, training with DJonkins Sports and Jacory 1Way, two professional services helping him to improve his testing numbers and his technique in anticipation of his pro day on March 28th. His spectacular final season at LA Tech saw him invited to the Tropical Bowl in Houston, one of the premier All-Star games on the draft season calendar. Heard feels he acquitted himself well in front of watching eyes:

“I had a good time down there. Good weather too – a far cry from the winter storm I escaped in Texas! But it was a business trip. I felt like I showcased myself well; we did one-on-ones, I got to compete with some Power 5 guys and hold my own. The game itself, there’s a lot of guys involved and you might only get two series each, but it’s more about the whole experience to be honest. Those two days leading up to it, working out in front of scouts and talking to different teams, I was grateful for the opportunity.”

Heard mentions some of the teams that showed an interest, one being the hometown Houston Texans. His eyes light up at the thought of playing for DeMeco Ryans, someone Myles considers to be a ‘players coach’. But as with any draft prospect, getting a shot anywhere in the league is the dream. For that, Heard is ready to showcase himself when scouts descend on Ruston for his pro day:

“I can’t wait to show out in front of them. I wanna prove I can run – it’s the standard answer, but most prospects get questioned about speed and strength. So there’ll be a focus on the bench press too. Athleticism, explosiveness, power – that’s all going to be there. But for me, I want them to see I’m a real football player too; great feet for a safety, ball skills, versatility, instincts – the little things that separate you from the next guy. Things that will make them go watch more tape, and see it in a game setting too.”

Heard tells me he’s shooting for 20 reps on the bench press, another linebacker number that the safety seems confident in hitting. For context, that would have put him in the top five DB’s in that test at last year’s NFL Combine. Watching the tape and how he tackles, I don’t doubt it for a second.

'Let Me Run And Gun And Go Hit Somebody'

Considering the versatile scheme Myles Heard operated in during his college career, we discuss best fits at the next level. I mention how Antoine Winfield, a prospect of similar stature and productivity coming out of Minnesota in 2020 has fared in the NFL; Heard’s eyes light up at hearing the name:

“I’m glad you mentioned Antoine Winfield. He’s one of my favorite safeties in the league right now. He’s not very tall like me, but he’s one of the best – and I’ve definitely played a similar role to what he thrives in. I tackle well, cover well, not afraid of contact – I’ll come up and hit you now! I love the physicality of it, love reading quarterbacks, keying the best receiver on the offense and shutting them down. I just love the game if I’m honest – I’ve got the versatility to bring a game for any role in any team. Whatever they need, I got it.”

What teams need, particularly from rookies, is usually a dedication to special teams. A sneaky good opportunity to make a case for a roster spot, Heard’s physicality and on-field mindset seem ideal:

“Man I love special teams! Every practice at college I was throwing myself in the special teams drills. The coaches wouldn’t let me take too many in the games as they were trying to preserve my body I guess, but they couldn’t stop me in practice! I’m down to play ANY special teams. Just let me run and gun and go hit somebody – i’m happy to do that any day of the week. Blocking too – I like the fight. I’m gritty like that.”

Some would say Myles Heard is a bad man on the field. I’ll defer to his stats, and let anyone who has experienced one of his jarring hits answer that. It’s a direct contradiction to how I find him off the field; a friendly, family-orientated young man with a big smile on his face. Come draft weekend, he’ll be following that mindset as he waits for his NFL destiny:

“It’s gonna be a family thing for me. Have them all over, a big ol’ cookout back in Houston. It’ll be as relaxed as it can be considering the circumstances – we’ll all just be chilling and waiting for that call. And I tell you now – it’ll mean everything when I get it. I don’t know how I’ll react – all the stuff I’ve been through, the hard work; I’m going to be grateful for that moment for sure.”

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A huge thank you to Myles for taking the time to talk to us. Everyone at The Touchdown wishes him well in his future career.