Jon Heidtke has been credited with being one of the driving forces of creating the UIL state football championships, a single-site Texas football state championship event. He was recently inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame for his efforts. Heidtke has spent years as senior vice president and general manager for FOX Sports Southwest. In 2002, the 12th Man Magazine named him "The Most Influential Aggie in Sports" and in 2005, he entered the Texas A&M Former Journalism Students Association Hall of Honor.
How does it feel to be inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame?
It was very humbling and quite an honor to be associated with so many legends who have made Texas High School Football the envy of all other States.
What got you into television production/broadcasting?
When I was young, I realized I wasn’t going to make it in sports as an athlete, so I thought the next best thing was to cover and talk about it. When I was in junior high and high school in Amarillo, I couldn’t wait to read the sports section each day, and back in those days, there was an afternoon edition of the Amarillo Globe News and I read the sports section from end to end when I got home from school. One of my early childhood heroes was Putt Powell a long time and award winning sports columnist for the paper and when I was in high school, I got a chance to shadow him and do an article for my high school paper. He was so encouraging regarding my aspirations to pursue a career in sports. Another influential figure in my life was Bill Tietgens. He was a sports anchor for the Amarillo NBC affiliate and went to our church and was kind enough to create an “internship” for me when I came home from college my freshman year and basically let me hang out at the station when I was home for Christmas break. I knew then, I wanted to pursue a career in sports broadcasting and by the time I was a senior at A&M, I had gotten the weekend sports anchor job at KBTX-TV and was on my way.
What started your love of sports?
I just loved playing all sports. Back in my youth it was like the movie Sandlot. We just got together and played all sports all the times and I just enjoyed competing at all levels.
What was the process like to start a single-site state championship event?
Even though it sounds like a no-brainer today, back in the early 90’s we had to convince a lot folks to see the vision and benefits of why this was a good idea. First we had to convince the UIL and thanks to the leadership of Bill Farney and Charles Breithaupt, they were instrumental in gaining the support of their legislative group. Then we had to convince the Coaches Association, and they were the hardest sell as for so many years, the coaches of the teams that made the playoffs would meet to determine where the Championship games would be played and if they couldn’t agree, it would come down to a coin flip, a scene made famous in the movie Friday Night Lights. When we would meet with the Coaches early on they were concerned about giving up that control. Lastly, we had to convince the advertising community to invest in this vision as well.
In the early years of our contract, we just had the rights to do the 5A game. But after the first couple of years, the 4A coaches wanted to play following the 5A game. Then the 3A Coaches wanted to play at the same site on Friday night and it just grew from there.
What challenges did you face while trying to make that happen?
As I mentioned earlier, we had a dickens of a time getting the coaches to realize all the benefits of having a single site, multi game experience. I remember after one presentation, I was frustrated I wasn’t able to articulate the vision better and the coaches were reluctant to want to make any changes. I remember lamenting to one of my mentors, Donnie Duncan, who was a long time football coach and Assistant Commissioner for the Big 12 at the time, and he put his arm around me and chuckled and give me some great advice. He said “You can always tell a high school coach, but you can’t tell him much”. He helped me put things in perspective and said it was a great idea and would eventually happen.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
It’s been said before, but the best advice I ever received was hire good people and let them do their job and get out of their way.
What keeps you motivated?
Sports is such a great unifier and there are so many wonderful life lessons that can be learned from sports and telling these stories in compelling fashion continues to drive me. Also, technology is creating so many ways to consume content and staying abreast of these advances and opportunities are exciting and motivating.
What do you like to do you in your free time?
I enjoy investing time and effort into projects I’m passionate about, especially those that help others. I also enjoy golf, travel and spending time with my family.
What's your favorite movie?
Based on this article, I should say Friday Night Lights, but my all time favorite movie is Animal House. I think I can recite all the lines.
Where do you hope to see yourself in the next five years?
Continuing to provide value in all my endeavors, both personally and professionally. Also, I’d like to do a podcast on sports media