September 9, 2011

A familiar foe for Heavens

Former Jess Lanier (Ala.) three-star athlete Brandon Heavens was once committed to Auburn for over nine months.

But after taking an official visit to Mississippi State just before Signing Day of 2009, Heavens had a change of heart and decided to switch his commitment to the Bulldogs. Naturally this week when those two teams meet is always anticipated for the now junior wide receiver.

"I get pretty amped whenever we play either Alabama or Auburn because I'm from Alabama," Heavens said. "It's always a big game for me playing those two schools."

Heavens has two friends - Travante Stallworth and Chris Davis on the Tigers roster as well as two former high school teammates from Bessemer in Harris Gaston and LaDarius Owens. Needless to say there has been some friendly smack talk going back and forth between the twin states this past week.

"We've been sending text messages on and off throughout the week talking a lot of trash to each other," Heavens said.

But the importance of Saturday's game has not gone lost on Heavens or any of the other MSU players. The Bulldog coaching staff has been stressing this matchup to their team all week at practice.

"Coach (Dan) Mullen has been preaching to us all week that we are going into a hostile environment playing the defending national champions," Heavens said. "We're just trying to go over there, play good and come back with the victory."

Heavens helped State's offense roll up 645 yards in their 59-14 opening win over Memphis last week catching one pass for 25 yards in limited action before giving way to some of the underclassmen. He has plenty of respect for the Tigers defense despite a lackluster performance against Utah State in week one.

"They are a great team," Heavens said of Auburn. "They've got good schemes. They are the defending national champions so they don't have a choice but to be good. They've got a good defense with a good scheme going on. I thin they've got a good offense and we've got a good D so it should be a pretty good game."

The 5-foot-10, 175-pounder has played in 26 games throughout his Bulldog career earning four starts. He has hauled in 30 passes for 377 yards and two touchdowns.

Heavens most productive season came in 2010 when he caught 22 passes for 316 yards and a pair of scores. But he will always remember his sophomore year as a rollercoaster ride of emotions.

Sure, Heavens and State won nine games including an Egg Bowl victory over Ole Miss and a Gator Bowl win over Michigan. But he also lost one of his best friends since childhood Nick Bell to cancer in November, just two months after he had started three times for the Bulldogs in September.

"It was a crazy season last year," Heavens said. "We went on a little winning streak for a while and finally got ranked and everything was going good. But then that (Bell's passing) happened. I kind of got down and that was the week we played Alabama and everybody was kind of down. We knew we would have to pick it up because that's what Nick would have wanted us to do. We went out the rest of the season winning some games."

Since making his decision two years ago Heavens has had no regrets, not even when Auburn won the national title last season. In fact, Heavens would do it all over again.

"I've been very happy," Heavens said. "I've gotten to know a lot of people here - coaches, players, friends. I think I picked the right spot to come to."


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