Tyler Heinsma is a case study in finding a way to get on the football field — and getting noticed.
His career stats won't wow you: six solo tackles, three assists.
But he's getting a shot in the National Football League.
The quarterback-turned-long snapper received an invitation Saturday to rookie minicamp with the Houston Texans.
Heinsma was the Southwestern Conference player of the year in 2013 for Grand Junction, throwing for more than 1,700 yards and rushing for more than 1,000. He signed with CSU-Pueblo, but transferred to Colorado Mesa after the 2014 season.
Long snapper Derek Vander Velde, also the Mavs' starting tight end, injured a knee during the 2015 season, and the coaches asked for volunteers to snap for kicks and punts.
"It was Tuesday or Wednesday at practice and the coaches asked if anyone had any experience long snapping," Heinsma said. "I did it a little bit in high school and was familiar with it. Saturday, I ended up playing.
"What I told Coach (Russ) Martin was I wanted to play quarterback or tight end, but we had a lot of good guys at those positions. I wanted to help the team and snapping was that, and I wanted to be as good as I possibly could be at that position."
He became good enough to get noticed by NFL scouts. Thursday he'll fly to Houston for minicamp.
Long snapper is one of those positions you don't notice until the ball sails over the head of the punter or the holder on field goals and PATs.
That didn't happen at CMU with Heinsma handling that duty. Place-kicker Ryan Sheehan was an All-American in 2016, making 23 of 26 field goals and all 53 PATs, with Heinsma sending perfect snaps to the holder.
"It's about the snaps," Martin said. "He's a good cover person down the field and he's good with the snaps."
Heinsma's tackles came as part of the special teams unit, joining the pursuit of the return man on punts.
"The first year, yeah, it was an adjustment from strictly playing quarterback to running downfield to make a play," Heinsma said. "The last couple of years I was more comfortable tackling and tackling in space. The coaches really helped me and I played tight end and a little linebacker. Those helped me out in the long run."
Now 6-foot-3 and pushing 240 pounds, Heinsma is hoping his versatility and athleticism help him in Houston. The Texans have a 10-year veteran, Jon Weeks, at long snapper, who last season set the franchise record for consecutive games played.
"Teams typically only carry one throughout the year, and it's kind of tough to get your foot in the door," Heinsma said. "The Texans have a good long snapper. That's the thing with long snapping, it's a position where you're not injury prone. There's longevity in it, and that's nice, too, you're not constantly beating your body up."
Heinsma is finishing up his degree and working on his days off from class. His other waking moments are spent working out, not only in the weight room, but also working on improving his snap times and accuracy.
"I was sure I wasn't going to get drafted," he said. "It was definitely free agency, so I knew it would be Saturday that I'd get any calls, if there were any. The Chargers and Texans wanted to bring me into a minicamp, and that's what I was hoping for."
He and his agent decided the Texans were the better choice — the Chargers signed a snapper from the defunct Alliance of American Football just prior to the draft.
Heinsma worked out in Denver at Landow Performance in Denver over the holidays with former quarterback Eystin Salum and tight end Tanner Quick to prepare for the next level. Martin said Salum will attend a couple of tryouts for Canadian Football League teams this weekend.
Once the draft ended, Heinsma, 23, was just waiting for his phone to ring.
"The whole family has become Houston Texans fans these past couple of days," he said, laughing. "It's a lot of relief, honestly. A lot of work this whole offseason, not knowing where I was going. Now I'm focused on one team and what I need to be working on."
Like every kid growing up, Heinsma had a dream of throwing touchdowns in the NFL. The position has changed, but that's OK — he has his shot.
"This is something I've always wanted to do," he said. "It's been my dream, and it's fun to see it coming together a little bit. I can kind of see it. It's just exciting."