When Taylor Heinicke leads the Washington Football Team onto Lambeau Field this Sunday, football won’t be the only thing on his mind.
Heinicke’s father, Brett, was the person who molded Taylor’s love of football. Before Brett died tragically from a heart attack at age 50 in 2011, a deep-seated love for the Green Bay Packers was intertwined with the Heinicke household. Some of Taylor’s best memories with his dad are laden with Packers themes.
“I think about him usually every day, but more so on game day, when the National Anthem is going. I really start thinking about all the people that have helped me get to this point and they have kind of molded me into the person I am today. He’s the first one I think about,” Heinicke told reporters on Wednesday. “This week obviously more so, being in Lambeau Field against Green Bay. It might get a little emotional there at the beginning but again, I’m just excited for this opportunity.”
Playing in the NFL was always Taylor Heinicke's dream, but stepping onto the gridiron in Green Bay will transcend the game of football for Washington’s starting quarterback.
Heinicke and his dad would sit and watch Brett Favre and the Packers week after week while Taylor was growing up, soaking in every moment together as football fans, father and son. One game sticks out.
“This is back when Brett Favre was playing and they played the Giants and the NFC Championship, I believe. That was the cold one where Eli [Manning] came back in overtime and won," Heinicke said. "And I remember how upset he was. I was a young kid at the time. I didn’t really understand it, but he told me -- I get emotional here."
Brett Heinicke apologized. He told his son he just wanted him to experience that joy, too. Taylor was just a little boy when Favre and the Packers won the title in 1997. In 2011, his senior year of high school, they finally did it again. Green Bay beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“And that was the last Super Bowl we got to watch together," Heinicke said. "So it's cool I experienced that with him. It was a really cool experience. I got to enjoy that. It just makes this game that much more meaningful.”
Heinicke’s own game might’ve been shaped by the memories of him watching Favre light up opposing defenses, but his personality was shaped by his late father, who knew exactly how to console his son after a bad game. Both will be equally present for Washington’s quarterback on Sunday.
“He taught me how to be humble and to work hard,” Taylor Heinicke said. “He’s with me every day and I keep a lot of the things that he told me and helped me through. And he just helped me be tough, mentally tough, and to be humble. Those are the two biggest things that he's taught me throughout my career.”
The impact Brett Heinicke had on his son is immeasurable. When Taylor led Washington to a rollercoaster victory in Atlanta in Week 4 — 30 miles from where he was born in Georgia — dozens of friends and family members were present. Heinicke gave an emotional postgame interview taking appraisal of the moment.
Regardless of this Sunday’s result, those emotions are sure to be replicated in Green Bay. Heinicke wears No. 4, same as Brett Favre did. When the Burgundy & Gold take the field at Lambeau Field, Brett Heinicke’s memory will be flowing through Taylor’s mind.
“He’d be really proud of me," Heinicke said. "You know his biggest thing was after every game, he told me how proud he is of me, and he'd give me a big hug. He had a signature bear hug. I know he would be doing the same thing today.”