“Once a Blue Jay always a Blue Jay” is the motto of Westminster alumnus Derick Heflin ’08 from Rolla, Missouri, who proudly played Blue Jay football when he was a student at Westminster. Heflin is now the football coach for the Washington High School Blue Jays in Washington, Missouri.
A secondary education major and a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, Heflin distinguished himself as a star linebacker at Rolla High School before joining the Westminster Blue Jays as a starting linebacker for two years. In his senior year, he was sidelined by a separated shoulder.
According to Heflin, one of his major influences while at Westminster was Coach John Welty.
“Coach Welty taught me how to be a man and how to treat people,” says Heflin. “I will always be grateful for his support and advice.”
After graduation, Heflin began his teaching and coaching career at Houston High School. He spent two years at Houston, followed by coaching stints at Salem and Waynesville, before becoming head football coach at Washington High School.
Heflin continues to maintain contact with his Westminster football buddies and a number of the other friends he made in college. As is the case with so many Westminster alumni, he gives a great deal of credit to his years beneath the Columns for helping him become the leader he is today.
“I learned so many of life’s lessons at Westminster,” Heflin says. “Westminster created an environment where I could learn and be successful, and it was there I gained the foundation to be a successful teacher and coach.”
And successful he is. Last year, Heflin took the Washington Blue Jays to their first playoff game in 10 years. The team made it to the district semifinals and finished the season with a 6-5 record.
“Washington is a great town, a great community,” he says. “The parents have been very welcoming to me, very supportive of our program. And the kids are great. I’ll never forget the look on our kids’ faces after we shut out (Wentzville) Liberty last year (27-0, Oct. 7) — our school’s first shutout in six or seven years. The kids really got after it, and it was an exciting feeling for all of us.”
With a young team in this second year of coaching (having lost 20 players to graduation), Heflin estimates he will field 40 varsity players, including six seniors, and 45 freshmen.
Heflin has a barometer at home that tells his wife Jen whether they are celebrating a victory or mourning a loss—his Boston terrier, Lincoln. “When I come home late on Friday nights, Lincoln knows exactly whether we won or lost,” Heflin says. “He can tell right away. If we lost, he immediately goes and hides under the bed. He doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
Sometimes Heflin misses being on the field as a player, but he says those moments are fleeting in comparison to what he is accomplishing as a coach.
“Being able to hit on the football field is replaced by getting to watch our kids grow as players and, more importantly, as people. Football is an excellent teaching tool to help turn kids into successful young men with strong character. You can instill core values in the kids through football.”
Character, leadership, success. Derick Heflin remains a Blue Jay as he carries these Westminster principles forward in his personal and professional life.
(Several of the quotes used in this article originally appeared in sportswriter Allen Mandell’s column, “Al’s Angle,” and appear with the permission of the publisher, the Washington Missourian.)