So often, the media jumps on negative stories and portrays the bad in people.
It’s part of the job, the cross they bear, but it can be depressing and downright disgusting at times to read.
This isn’t one of those stories.
Four years ago yesterday, the Walworth Big Foot football team, a little Division 4 powerhouse located 15 minutes west of Lake Geneva, was one play away from a potential state championship on a crisp night at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison.
Undersized quarterback Carter Hehr (5-9, 175) rolled to his right, sought out Brandon Hausner for a two-point pass in the front right corner of the end zone and fired it low and outside, exactly where it needed to be.
A Somerset defender leapt in front of Hausner and batted the ball down at the last second, and the Chiefs’ dreams of a second title in four years (they won in 2009) were gone, in a devastating 35-33 overtime defeat.
Hehr, who would go on to earn all-state accolades and be named the area player of the year, stood tall in the postgame interview, crediting his teammates and exuding grace and honor in defeat.
He knew everything the boys worked for wasn’t lost, and he was thankful and blessed for the opportunity to play the game he loved.
A Fontana native, Carter, parents Robert and Judy and siblings Chandler, Kam and Kennedy live on Geneva Lake, a mere hundred or so feet next-door to grandma and grandpa.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Carter at his home in 2012 and delve into his goals.
Too small to play quaterback in college, Hehr projected as a small-school safety at the next level. A ball-hawking playmaker, Hehr returned kickoffs for touchdowns as a senior and finished with 35 total touchdowns (17 pass, 15 rush, 1 punt return, 1 kick return) his senior season.
Hehr could’ve stayed home and played defense at a D3 school like Whitewater or maybe even Beloit College, where teammate Mason Dixon, the 2012 Wisconsin offensive player of the year, would go on to shatter his dad’s rushing records.
But Hehr had bigger plans.
He wanted to start completely from scratch, proving himself at a major Division 1 program and working his way from walk-on to starter.
Thanks to some good, old-fashioned determination and help from mom and dad, Hehr found himself in training camp with the Arizona Wildcats of the Pac-12, led by former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez.
Hehr proved himself and soon was on the kickoff team.
Listed at 5-foot-10, 191 pounds, Hehr made waves on the field and in the classroom, earning Pac-10 All-Academic First Team honors with a 3.91 GPA in business by his junior season.
As a true freshman, Hehr redshirted, but in his second season he played in seven games on special teams and recorded three tackles.
By junior year in 2015, Hehr earned a scholarship, only two years after program after program told him he wasn’t good enough to walk on, and Rodriguez sang his praises.
“He typifies everything you want in a student-athlete as far as doing everything to get better each and every year,” Rodriguez said. “He’s earned a scholarship, and obviously he’s earning playing time. He is a great example of how a walk-on proved himself.”
Hehr played in all 12 games in 2015 before breaking his collarbone and missing Arizona’s bowl game.
During the first day of spring practice this season, Hehr re-broke the collarbone. He managed to play five games this season for the Wildcats, but the injuries mounted.
Hehr tore his AC joint in the fourth game of the season before tearing his labrum Oct. 1.
The bumpy road ended recently, as Hehr told Rodriguez he won’t be playing football anymore.
“I decided to do it because football isn’t forever, and I want to be able to hold my kids,” Carter said via text message Wednesday. “I want to be able to throw a football to my son.”
The glory isn’t completely over. Carter’s 13-year football career continues, as he confirmed Wednesday he’s rehabbing in hopes of playing the last game of the season, a Nov. 25 date with Arizona State.
Arizona is 2-8 this season and won’t be bowling.
“It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made,” Carter added. “It’s winding down and I’m taking it all in one day at a time.”
Hehr has enough credits to graduate early, begin his business career and a new chapter in life.
“I’m excited for Carter that he stayed the course despite all the odds,” Judy said Wednesday. “He has the blessing and reference of Rich Rodriguez to close this chapter in his life and move forward.”
Carter said he’s looking to start a sales career and be “more successful than I was playing football.”
Carter’s sister Kennedy is rehabbing from a second torn meniscus but will be playing college volleyball at Division 1 Coastal Carolina, and brother Chandler is transferring to play football at Grand Valley State.
Carter’s story is proof that anything is possible, and working harder than everyone else and pushing yourself to the limit usually works out in the end.
A small-town kid from a high school of 500 made good, and he will have a lifetime of memories to share with loved ones. Less than 1 percent of the population, or some microscopic number, can say they played Division 1 college football.
Congrats, Carter, you’re an inspiration to every kid that picks up a football and fantasizes about playing for his or her favorite team and making a name for themselves.
“I owe Coach Rod (riguez), Matt Dudek and safeties coach at the time, Matt Caponi, because without them I would have never had the opportunity to make my dream come true.”
Keep dreaming, everyone.