Looking at his resume, you would assume he was born the size of a football defensive lineman: All-State in high school, all-conference in college and drafted into the National Football League.

However, Dennis Heim emphasizes that that wasn’t quite the reality. As a sophomore at Monett High School, he had played as a 5-foot-10, 150-pounder. But the summer before his junior year, he hauled hay and, three months later, came off the farm transformed into a 6-foot-2, 175-pounder – and growing.

“The coaches took notice of my new-found size and worked with me to develop my skills,” Heim said.

Good thing they did. He emerged as one of the best players in the history of the Ozarks, and it’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Heim with the Class of 2021.

His lineage runs from All-State defensive lineman for Monett Football (MSHOF 2018) to record-setting tackler at Missouri State University and then to the pros. He was a New York Giants draft pick, a player in the Canadian Football League and later with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

At Monett, he was a sophomore on its 1971 state championship team and then helped the Cubs to 9-1 and 8-2 records the next two seasons.

Looking back, he credits head coach Burl Fowler, then-defensive coordinator Benny Lawson as well as assistants Chuck Ramsey and J.L. Phillips for challenging him to become better.

“As I left high school, I was still growing in size, and I had a lot of growing up to do both physically and mentally,” said Heim, an All-District and all-conference selection. “I chose Missouri State largely due to the contact I had with the coaches there. Unbeknownst to me, coach Bill O’Neill was about to become much more than a coach. He was a father figure and a great friend.

“He embodied what people think stereotypically about a coach that gave you feedback in a direct and forceful way, and yet you knew his priority was to make you better,” Heim added.

Heim still owns the program’s single-season (16) and career records (41) for quarterback sacks, creating a total of 267 yards in losses.

He finished his collegiate career with 338 tackles in 42 games, with 141 unassisted stops. The 338 figure is 13th-most in program history.

In 1977, his senior season, Heim was a co-captain and led the Bears with 133 total tackles, including 45 unassisted stops – and earned his second consecutive First Team All-MIAA selection. He played his final two seasons for Rich Johanninghmeier (MSHOF 2015).

“I was fortunate to have great coaches, and teammates,” said Heim, a 1994 inductee of MSU’s Athletics Hall of Fame. “I learned so much from so many people, both on and off the field.”

Heim was the youngest of five, with 18 years difference between him and his oldest brother, John, who survived polio just before Heim was born.

The overall support from his family – including his parents Max and Louise, brothers John, Richard and Bob and sister Dorothy – led to success later on.

“My whole family was a great source of strength and guidance as I was growing up,” Heim said. “My oldest brothers were especially consistent and strong with their message. They helped me to create a sense of urgency to excel to the best of my ability. They left no doubt that they felt organized sports would be an excellent avenue to learn about life. The sacrifices, learning to work as a team, dealing with adversity, were just a few of the benefits they felt athletics could teach.”

As a junior, pro scouts showed an interest. Eventually, the Giants moved him from defensive line to linebacker and, with Heim excelling on special teams, it appeared he had made the team on the final Tuesday of preseason.

That Friday, however, head coach John McVay called him to his office and told Heim the tough news, that an injury to two starting linebackers led to the signing of a ready-made linebacker. But McVay also said the Toronto Argonauts wanted him to play in the CFL.

Not ready to head home, Heim played the rest of that season and part of the next for the Argonauts — former Green Bay Packer Forrest Gregg was the coach one season – and then spent time with the Bucs.

“I’m thankful to those who saw more in me than I saw in myself and asked for more than I thought I had to give,” Heim said.