New final exam: Heinicke pauses school to QB for Washington

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Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke scrambles during an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, in Landover, Md. Until a relief appearance Sunday, Heinicke hadn't played an NFL game since 2018 and was an XFL backup, and now Heinicke could start or be one Alex Smith injury away in the season finale at Philadelphia with the NFC East on the line.(AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

Taylor Heinicke had math, not football, on his mind this fall.

Heinicke was back in school online at Old Dominion University, six years after he finished his college career as the school's most accomplished quarterback with four NFL organizations and an XFL backup stint in his rearview mirror.

His course load: Mathematics in Nature, Number Theory and Discrete Mathematics, Applied Numerical Methods and Partial Differential Equations.

Then, he got a call in early December to be Washington's “quarantine quarterback" and less than three weeks after joining the practice squad was on the field for his first NFL action since 2018.

Now, Heinicke is taking first-team snaps at practice in case Alex Smith isn't ready and could get just his second pro start Sunday night at Philadelphia with the NFC East title at stake.

There's no equation that explains any of this.

“I was prepared for this moment, and it’s fortunate that it happened,” Heinicke said. “It’s been a bizarre month or two, but I wouldn’t ask for anything different."

Different certainly describes Heinicke's journey from small-school college star to NFL bouncy ball with stops in Minnesota, New England, Houston and Carolina before planning for life after the sport. The 27-year-old who went from engineering to a math major got through final exams with “A” and “B” grades in two of his classes and asked to put the other two on hold until after the season.