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A lot of times when an athlete grows up in one particular city, they can't wait to spread their wings and go out to see what the rest of the sports world has to offer.

But after studying their options, recent Washburn Rural graduate JC Heim and Shawnee Heights product Christian Gonzales decided that home-town Washburn University had everything they were looking for in a college.

ChristianGonzalesShrineBowl 3Former Shawnee Heights star lineman Christian Gonzales (75) will play for the East in Saturday's Kansas Shrine Bowl. [Photo by Rick Peterson/TSN]

JCHeimShrineBowl 2Former Washburn Rural star JC Heim (right) will play for the East in Saturday's Kansas Shrine Bowl at Welch Stadium. [Photo by Rick Peterson/TSN]

So a few weeks after competing for the East in Saturday's Kansas Shrine Bowl at Emporia State's Welch Stadium, Heim and Gonzales will make the short trip to Washburn to begin their first season in an Ichabod uniform.

"Honestly, it's like in my backyard and I feel like if they're giving me the opportunity to go play for them that gives me a chance to represent my city and try to put them back on the map,'' Gonzales said.

Heim said Washburn was also a relatively easy choice for him and twin brother Jaren.

"The biggest thing for me was the community support I had while I was at Washburn Rural and I think that's just going to carry on at Washburn University,'' Heim said. "And just the coaching staff all the way around, how they recruited me, how they talked to me, how they treated me as a person, and not only me but my brother (Jaren), and how they told us we'd fit in.''

Gonzales said that the Heims also influenced his decision to go to WU.

"Once I saw the Heims were going to sign there, I had played youth ball with them from like third grade up, so I knew that once they signed, that it would be the right choice,'' Gonzales said.

Heim is following former Washburn Rural teammates Ty Weber and Amr Sabbarini to Washburn while Jaren Heim, Branton DeWeese and Jamond Lane also were part of the Ichabods' 2024 signing class after helping the Junior Blues advance to the Class 6A semifinals last fall.

"Ty and Amr, guys like that, were a big factor in my commitment as well, just knowing that I had people there that are a step ahead of me that I can learn from,'' JC Heim said.

Adding to the Washburn Rural/Washburn connection is the fact that former Junior Blue quarterback Mitch Schurig is a WU assistant coach.

 "There's a lot of Rural blood over there,'' Heim said.

Heim, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder, is projected as a linebacker in college but is expected to mainly play running back and tight end in Saturday's 7 p.m. Shrine Bowl.

Heim was named the Shawnee County and Centennial League defensive player of the year last fall and also received All-State recognition. Heim was in on 173 total tackles (102 solos) with 17 tackles for loss and eight sacks and rushed for 530 yards and 10 touchdowns. He finished his career with 255 tackles, 36 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, nine forced fumbles and five blocked kicks.

Gonzales, a 6-1, 270-pound defensive lineman, was a first-team All-United Kansas Conference pick as a junior and senior and an All-Shawnee County Top 22 selection as a senior, compiling 70 tackles with eight tackles for loss and four sacks.

Gonzales finished his high school career with 149 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and seven sacks.

Also playing for the East are former Shawnee County stars Callen Barta of Seaman (6-2, 185 wide receiver/defensive back), Carter Charvat of Hayden (6-2, 220 lineman), Finn Dunshee of Hayden (5-10, 185 running back) and Barrett Lietz of Rossville (6-1, 235 lineman).

Barta will play at Kansas State and Charvat at Benedictine while Dunshee plans to run track at Texas Christian University and Lietz will attend Kansas State.

Washburn Rural coach Steve Buhler and Shawnee Heights' Jason Swift are serving as East assistants.


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