The Carolina Panthers have opted to make a change at quarterback for the homestretch of the 2018 NFL season. Due to an injury suffered by quarterback Cam Newton which has ailed the signal-caller for multiple weeks, third-year player Taylor Heinicke will get his chance. The Panthers’ backup has very little experience at the NFL level but has had his fair share of success prior to entering the league.
Let’s take a look at a few of the key things to know about Heinicke, who will make his seventh-ever regular-season appearance in the NFL. He posted some superb numbers throughout his collegiate career, even setting records in the process.
He Played for Old Dominion and Even Did Some Punting
The Panthers new starting quarterback had an impressive run with the Monarchs. He played four seasons with the school and over 46 games racked up a strong all-around stat line. This included 14,969 passing yards with a 67.7 completion percentage.
Heinicke also threw for 132 touchdowns and just 39 interceptions, topping the 30-touchdown mark in three different seasons. For good measure, he was able to showcase his ability as a runner throughout his career as well, totaling 1,320 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground.
Arguably one of the most unique aspects of Heinicke’s game was the fact that he could step in and punt. Over his four years with the Monarchs, the quarterback punted 42 times while posting a respectable average of 42.5 yards per attempt.
Heinicke Won the Walter Payton Award as a Sophomore
The former Monarchs quarterback hit the ground running in his impressive collegiate career, and it took just two seasons for him to be considered among the best in Division I FCS. He was awarded the prestigious Walter Payton Award, which is given to the best offensive player in the FCS that season.
Over the span of that year, Heinicke completed 68.7 percent of his passes for 5,076 yards, 44 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Along with winning the award, Heinicke was also named the CAA Offensive Player of the Year.
He Holds the Record for Most Single-Game Yards in FCS
Heinicke threw for an impressive 730 yards in a single game back on September 22, 2012. The total came against New Hampshire and currently comes in 68 yards more than the next-closest player. His closest competition is Brady Attaway, who threw for 662 yards nearly one year later on September 28, 2013.
During that same 2012 season, Heinicke also threw for 44 touchdown passes, which currently is tied with Steven McNair as the seventh-most in a single season. Showing just how elite McNair was, you can look at the fact that he managed to hit the number in just an 11-game span.
Heinicke Ranks No. 2 in Most Passing Yards in One Season
When evaluating the FCS record book, Heinicke’s award-winning season back in 2012 was originally good enough to place him in the No. 1 spot for single-season passing yards. While his 5,076 yards held the record for multiple seasons, he was eventually surpassed by Gabe Gubrud of Eastern Washington, who threw for 5,160 yards in 2016.
It’s worth noting that Heinicke’s record season featured just 13 games played while Gubrud’s came over the span of 14 games. During that same season, the collegiate star also averaged 390.5 yards per game, good for the third most in FCS history.
He Went Undrafted, Has Been With Four NFL Teams
While the new Panthers starter wasn’t drafted after an impressive career with Old Dominion, he latched on with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent. Heinicke spent three seasons with the team (2015-17) and proceeded to sign with the New England Patriots on their practice squad for a brief period.
After a stop with the Patriots, the Houston Texans added Heinicke to their practice squad for the remainder of the 2017 season. He was promoted to the team’s active roster on December 15 when starter Tom Savage suffered an injury. The 25-year-old received his first NFL opportunity that season but threw just one pass for 10 yards before original starter T.J. Yates returned after passing concussion protocol.
The Panthers claimed Heinicke off waivers prior to the 2018 season and he went on to earn the No. 2 job behind Newton. Through the first 16 games, he threw a total of four passes, completing two of them for 46 yards.