Athletes savor ‘Blitz’ cover spot

Hollidaysburg senior defensive back D.J. Heim had just recently learned that an offseason injury would sideline him for at least the first two games of the 2019 high school football season and was in need of some good news.

That’s when his dad brought him a copy of the Altoona Mirror’s seventh annual “Blitz” magazine.

“I was pretty hyped,” said Heim, who is one of three area seniors featured on the magazine’s front cover. “I was laying down in my living room. My dad came in, and I was feeling down. He said he could help me feel better and showed me the magazine. I instantly felt better and was really surprised. Last year, my friend Brady Walters was on the cover, so it was great to follow him.”

Heim hopes to follow in Walters’ footsteps and lead Hollidaysburg to more state playoff success after recording 92 tackles as a junior.

The two other featured cover athletes also helped their teams to plenty of success as juniors last season.

Tussey Mountain quarterback Matt Leonard led a Titans team that won eight games after winning just two in the past three seasons combined. He threw for 1,186 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“Last year, we almost won the ICC,” Leonard said. “We want to win that this year and get a district title. It has been awhile since we’ve done that at Tussey Mountain, and we want to be the ones that get back.”

Claysburg-Kimmel running back Kobe Harr is also on the cover, a year after leading the Bulldogs to a playoff victory and nearly upsetting eventual District 6 Class 1A champion Juniata Valley in the quarterfinals. Harr rushed for 915 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry.

Claysburg was one fourth-down stand away from being in the semifinals instead of the Green Hornets.

“As soon as I saw Juniata Valley win districts, I thought, that could have been us,” Harr said. “It should have and could have been us, but the game is over now. We’re worried about this year and our senior season and taking big steps to get to where they were, maybe farther.”

Harr was caught off guard by his appearance on the “Blitz” cover.

“I really didn’t expect to be on the cover,” Harr said. “I heard the news a couple days before it came out, and when I saw the picture, I just thought it was awesome. I felt like a cover athlete, like I was on Madden.”

Though many NFL athletes aspire to be on the cover of each season’s Madden football video game, some believe the honor is accompanied by a curse that leads to either a disappointing season or an injury.

Leonard is hoping the same can’t be said about being on the “Blitz” cover.

“I’m pretty worried about that, because the Madden curse is real,” said Leonard with a smile. “A ‘Blitz’ curse could be real, too. I didn’t know (Heim) was hurt, but Kobe (Harr) and I have both dealt with injuries this offseason, though we’ll both be good to go for the season.”

The “Blitz” magazine can be found at area Sheetz, Weis, Martin’s and Giant Eagle among other locations and is $4.95. It now features conference previews and is bigger than ever, spotlighting 33 teams over 164 pages.