If students were stocks, you would want to invest your last dollar in Simpson senior Jonathan Heitritter.
Some students have a Plan A and Plan B for their future careers.
“I’m the guy who has Plan C, Plan D and Plan E, ready to go,” Heitritter said.
A 2015 graduate of Boyden-Hull High School, Heitritter spent the past summer as a strength and conditioning intern at the University of Florida, a Division I school.
The five other interns were 25 and 26 years old. Heitritter is 21.
But that’s not all. After three months in Florida, he flew to Minnesota to be a team operations intern for one month with the Minnesota Vikings, working alongside team operations coordinator Chuck Petersen, a 2006 Simpson graduate.
“It was a very hectic, chaotic summer,” Heitritter said. “It was pretty crazy.”
But it also was a dream come true for a young man who hopes to someday be the general manager for an NFL team.
“I have a huge passion for the NFL, not only from a sports consumer’s perspective but also from the perspective of player pro personnel and sports administration,” he said.
Heitritter compiles 20- to 30-page draft boards in his free time of players declaring for the NFL draft.
“I know their pros, their cons, what college they’re from, their height, their weight, 40-yard dash time and how many bench press reps they got,” he said. “I made sure that I knew most of the prospects coming out.”
For the Vikings, Heitritter was chosen to do mandatory breakfast, lunch and dinner meal checks, “because I knew the roster like the back of my hand.”
In high school Heitritter viewed himself more of a player than a team operations manager. He was recruited to Simpson to play football, but a series of knee injuries as an edge rusher in high school left him pursuing a strength and conditioning major in college.
“I decided I wanted to be around sports even though I was no longer going to play sports,” he said.
After his sophomore year at Simpson, Heitritter obtained his big break – a strength and conditioning internship at the University of Arkansas, where his cousin was the assistant track coach.
“I got the opportunity to work with six Olympic athletes, two of whom won gold medals at Rio 2016,” he said.
Heitritter treated his next internship as if he were putting together an NFL draft board. He compiled staff directors for as many as 75 Division I football schools, and then sent out several emails every night. He learned everything he could about all of the coaches – from their personal backgrounds to career paths.
He said Bobbi Sullivan, director of Career Development, and Laurie Dufoe, assistant director, edited his resume and put him through practice job interview sessions. He said their questions were tougher than the ones he faced from coaches.
“Internships play an important role in the collegiate student experience,” Sullivan said. “Through these high-impact opportunities, students apply their learning from the classroom, develop practical skills and build relationships with professional mentors. Companies prefer to hire students who have interned with them or at least interned within the industry. Simpson’s team in Career Development supports students like Jonathan as they secure and engage in internships through individual coaching, group workshops and events, and leveraging a powerful network of alumni and friends of the college.”
Heitritter is grateful for their help. “When I graduate I’m taking them out for a steak dinner,” he said. “I’ve been saying that since I was a sophomore.”
“Jonathan exudes an amazing blend of passion, professionalism, and perseverance,” Sullivan said. “I have been impressed by his self-motivation and high personal standards since first meeting him. He has been a pleasure to support and coach during his time at Simpson College. I am confident his future is bright.”
Four schools offered him internships this past summer; Heitritter chose Florida.
“I wanted to be put in a position where I was going to be challenged,” he said. “It made me grow up and become more of a professional.”
Then came the Vikings. Heitritter was responsible for helping take care of player needs off the field. He was in heaven.
When Heitritter graduates in December, Plan A is to apply for a job with the Vikings or for another NFL team. Plan B is to get a master’s degree in sports administration and pay for it by being a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach.
So far, Heitritter’s career has benefited from several Simpson connections. His earnings at Florida were supported by the Hubbell Fellows gift, and while there he relied on housing from Jackie Ford, a 1984 Simpson alum. He relied on Petersen’s advice with the Vikings.
The personal connections were important. But Heitritter said it’s how Simpson changed him that may prove most beneficial.
“Being at Simpson gave me the confidence to go out and say, ‘I can do this,’ he said.
No matter where he goes, Heitritter will continue compiling his thick NFL player reports.
“The door to my dream job has opened,” he said. “I’m going to go for it.”