Friday, August 19, 2022

Where Are They Now? Ole Miss QB Came Close To Not Playing Football

The Vassallo Interviews — Steve Vassallo is a contributor who interviews Oxford’s and our region’s leading personalities.
Steve said: Jimmy Heidel, who was the starting QB for Ole Miss in 1965, decided he was never going to play football because of a fatal injury to a player on the Yazoo City HS team that Jimmy witnessed. ‘I was scared to death,’ Heidel said. Fortunately for Yazoo City and Ole Miss Jimmy’s dad helped him in reconsidering his decision which led to a great college and NFL Career. — Jimmy, tell us about your high school career at Yazoo City.

Jimmy Heidel

Jimmy Heidel — My older brother Roy was an excellent football player and an inspiration to me. I was not a big kid as a sophomore. Even when I graduated from Ole Miss, I was 6-1, but only weighed 155. I enjoyed track as well as football and for a couple of years held the state record in the 180-yard low hurdles. I played QB and Safety on the football team. I ended up starting as a junior and as a senior I made All Big 8 at QB. In the Big 8 Championship Game we lost to Greenville 6-0. — Were you interested in colleges other than Ole Miss?
Jimmy Heidel  Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State all had an interest in me. Coach Vaught recruited my brother (he was a DE) at the same time he was recruiting me. — What are your memories of Coach Vaught?
Jimmy Heidel  I was in awe of Coach Vaught. My first impression was that I was amazed to be sitting in the same room with such a great coach. My thought at that time was why  should I be given an audience? — Tell us about your early days at Ole Miss.
Jimmy Heidel  Jimmy Weatherly and I were freshman QB’s together. I was a pretty good defensive player. My sophomore year (1963) I has 5 interceptions at Safety and never  thought I would become a QB. — And what about your junior year?
Jimmy Heidel — I was put in at QB during the Mississippi State game which led to my  starting the next year in 1965. — Speaking of 1965, the greatest Ole Miss game I ever attended was the 1965 clash in Legion Field, which you starred.
Jimmy Heidel — My adrenalin was flowing that night. I completed 65 percent of my passes Rocky Fleming (from Laurel) was one of my key receivers in that contest. We are ahead with 90 seconds to go and ended up on the short side of the 17-16 score. After the game the Bear singled me out on the field and said to me …”You’re one helluva QB.” — The 1965 season was quite a success story.
Jimmy Heidel  We went 8-2 and won the Liberty Bowl versus Auburn. We also lost to  Houston that season, a game in which I lost most of my teeth. — What other memories do you have of that year?
Jimmy Heidel — I roomed with brother Roy that year in Miller Hall. Coach Vaught loved to win and he was intense most of the time. Our entire coaching staff was very close as they all were focused on winning. My fondest memory of Ole Miss, however, had nothing to do  with sports. It came when my wife Joanna agreed to marry me. She had grown up in Oxford and was a member of the Tri Delt sorority. — Shifting gears, you were very close to Governor Fordice following your football career.
Jimmy Heide  He was my volunteer chairman in Vicksburg when I was heading up the Economic Development effort there. When he became Governor, he asked me to direct the Mississippi Development Authority. — What are some of the events and people who have had a tremendous influence on  you?
Jimmy Heidel — My father, Roy, certainly was a major influence. My entire life has been guided by my Christian beliefs. I view my life as an honor to Jesus Christ. Another individual who impacted my life was my high school football coach Red Jenkins. He emphasized hard work and doing the right thing at all times. Bobby Robinson was an Offensive Guard at Ole Miss from McComb. His nickname was Sheepdog. He was a role model to me as he looked after me. He was always nice and I looked up to him. — Your pro career included a number of teams.
Jimmy Heidel  I started with the Cardinals and then was sent to New Orleans because of the expansion draft. I ended my pro career on the taxi squad with the Jets.
Steve Vassallo is a contributor. Steve writes on Ole Miss athletics, Oxford business, politics and other subjects. He is an Ole Miss grad and former radio announcer for the basketball team. Currently, Steve is a highly successful leader in the real estate business who lives in Oxford with his wife Rosie. You can contact Steve at or call him at 985-852-7745.

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