Now, on Saturday, in the interviews with The Times, he spoke about what he called his “unique situation.” Asked about the critics who have demanded that Oregon State refuse to let him rejoin the team, he was succinct:
“I don’t have anything to tell them,” he said. “They can have their opinions of me. Ultimately the people around me know who I am. That is what matters. Everybody else can say what they want.”
The case, he said, is “a delicate family situation,” though he declined to go into the details.
Did he abuse his niece?
Heimlich insisted he did not.
“I always denied anything ever happened,” he said. “Even after I pled guilty, which was a decision me and my parents thought was the best option to move forward as a family. And after that, even when I was going through counseling and treatment, I maintained my innocence the whole time.”
There was no interaction with his niece that he could imagine would have been misinterpreted, he said, adding, “Nothing ever happened, so there is no incident to look back on.”
Although Heimlich has begun to talk about his troubles, the silence around him among Oregon State officials has not cracked.
Last year, after Heimlich’s guilty plea had been made public, the Oregon State coach, Pat Casey, a two-time national title winner, denied knowing about Heimlich’s past while he was recruiting him to come to Corvallis.
This season, Casey has said little more than that he supports his star. “He’s a fine young man,” Casey told reporters last summer, “and for every second that he has been on this campus, on and off the field, he has been a first-class individual — someone his family should be proud of, our community should be proud of and his team is proud of.”