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Senior defensive lineman Jake Heimlicher faces off against a Colgate offensive lineman during the game at Franklin Field on Sept. 17.

Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

Barricade-like coverage, highlight-reel tackles, and league-wide recognition are at the top of defensive lineman Jake Heimlicher’s resume as a Quaker. 

This season, Heimlicher has led the Red and Blue’s formidable defense with double-digit tackles against Dartmouth and Lafayette, as well as a tide-turning interception in Penn’s nail-biting victory over Yale. In his final campaign, the senior leads the team in tackles for loss (12) and sacks (8).

Few players have had as much year-over-year growth as Heimlicher, who is en route to surpassing all major defensive statistical categories from his formidable 2021 season, and has become the first Quaker to receive back-to-back Ivy League Defensive Player of the Week recognition. 

Even with an already impressive record, Heimlicher continues to aim higher. His goal as a defensive lineman is to continue getting more physical by developing additional strength and increasing his size. Understanding the importance of maintaining a body that can withstand 10 grueling games while being a Wharton finance major, it's no surprise that Heimlicher’s impressive growth in size has mirrored the skyrocketing Consumer Price Index.

“My goal at the end of the day is to play at the next level,” Heimlicher said. “I feel like I have the work ethic and mindset to get it done. Hopefully, after this season, I’ll start training for the NFL and see what I can do.”

Asked about Heimlicher’s development as a player, Penn coach Ray Priore has observed his dedication to leading by example, and holding not himself, but his teammates to elevated standards.

“He is very dedicated to the process, whether it is studying football film, in the weight room, or taking care of his body,” Priore said. “He’s not just interested in being a good football player. He’s committed to it.”

Although Heimlicher will be suiting up as a Quaker just one final time in Penn’s title-vying showdown with Princeton this Saturday, he does not plan to lay down the pigskin anytime soon. 

The Red and Blue have an extensive history of sending seniors to the highest level, whether it be the Philadelphia Eagles’ No. 1 draft pick Chuck Bednarik or recent NFL recruits like Brandon Copeland, Justin Watson, and Prince Emili. With similar senior year defensive numbers to Penn’s most recent alumnus in the big league, Prince Emili, Heimlicher strives to continue the legacy. 

In his final season at Penn and second year as co-captain, several of his top contributions to the Red and Blue happen off the field. Heimlicher enjoys taking underclassmen under his wing to provide them with the mentorship and support he received as a freshman from Hunter Hayes, Pat McInerney, and Connor Jangro — three players he looked up to.

While speaking to the underclassmen right before kickoff at Penn’s 2OT thriller against Dartmouth, Heimlicher championed to teammates, “[Dartmouth and fans] have no idea what’s coming, because we know what we are capable of. No one else in this league is prepared for us.” 

With his football journey as a Quaker coming to an end at Princeton this weekend, Heimlicher is not prepared to leave anything on the table. He is ready to add one last line to his resume with the Red and Blue: bringing the Ivy League title back to Philadelphia.