Heffner Announces Retirement, Fitzgerald Shuffles Coaching Staff
Jeff Genyk Named Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach

EVANSTON, Ill. — After 43 years of coaching football, including 13 at Northwestern, tight ends coach Bob Heffner announced his decision to retire from the sidelines. Dan and Susan Jones Family Head Football Coach Pat Fitzgerald tabbed current special teams coordinator Jeff Genyk to assume tight end coaching responsibilities in addition to leading the program’s special teams efforts. The Wildcats will begin a national search for a cornerbacks coach to serve as the staff’s 10th full-time assistant.

“Coach Heffner had a profound impact on myself, our program and the game of football in over 40 years of coaching,” said Fitzgerald. “Countless student-athletes, coaches and staff members have benefited from his steadfast dedication, compassion and mentorship as both a coach and a person. We are so grateful to his wife, Nancy, and their family for sharing him with us these last 13 years and we wish them nothing but happiness as they transition towards a new chapter.

“Coach Genyk has a wealth of experience leading the tight ends group at the Power Five level, including in the Big Ten Conference,” Fitzgerald continued. “He has a great grasp of our program’s operation and offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian and I are looking forward to him stepping into this role and building on the foundation set by Coach Heffner.”

The split responsibility of leading a special teams unit and a position group is not new for Genyk. He held the same role as special teams coordinator and tight ends coach at both California (2010-12) and Wisconsin (2013-14) before serving as Vanderbilt’s special teams coordinator and running backs coach in 2016-17. More on Genyk.

Heffner has been a member of Fitzgerald’s staff since February of 2009 when he was brought on to coach the Wildcats’ superbacks group – a tight end and fullback hybrid position that transitioned to a traditional tight end role with the addition of offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian in December of 2019.

Under Heffner’s tutelage, Drake Dunsmore, Danny Vitale, Garrett Dickerson, Cameron Green and John Raine each earned All-Big Ten recognition. Dunsmore, Vitale, Dickerson and Raine each went on to play in the National Football League. Heffner developed Dunsmore into one of the most prolific players in program history as Dunsmore finished his career as NU’s leader in receptions (143) and receiving yards (1,567) by a tight end, and ultimately was named the Big Ten’s inaugural winner of the Kwalick-Clark
Big Ten Tight End of the Year Award in 2011. In his final season with Northwestern, Heffner oversaw the development of sophomore tight end Marshall Lang, who led the Wildcats in touchdown receptions.

Prior to coming to Evanston, Heffner spent eight seasons (2001-08) at Lafayette College, serving as the Leopards’ offensive line coach from 2001 through 2007, before assuming Lafayette’s offensive coordinator position in 2008. In 2002, Heffner was named the program’s associate head coach. Six times in his last eight seasons with Lafayette, the Leopards ranked either first or second in Patriot League rushing or passing. He won three-straight Patriot League titles and went to the FCS playoffs in all three of those seasons. The stint was his third at Lafayette College as he also spent the 1988-89 seasons with the Leopards and won a Patriot League title with the program in 1994 as the offensive coordinator.

The Coshocton, Ohio, native also served on the offensive staffs at Northern Illinois (1996) and Maryland (1997-2000) in addition to coaching stops in the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League. Heffner coached Maryland’s tackles and tight ends for two seasons before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 1999. In Heffner’s first season directing Maryland’s offensive unit, the Terrapins posted the 10th-highest scoring average in school history and its best in seven previous seasons.

He graduated from Temple University in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, and then served as a graduate assistant coach at his alma mater for the ’79 season. That season, the Owls played in the Garden State Bowl against California. Heffner then began his full-time collegiate coaching career at Illinois State as the interior defensive line coach in 1981 before taking over as offensive line coach during a seven-year stay with the Redbirds.

As a student-athlete at Temple, Heffner played three years as an offensive guard and was a member of Owl teams that made Mirage Bowl appearances in 1977 and 1978.

Heffner, and his wife, Nancy, a native of Warren Glen, N.J., have three daughters, Katie, Molly and Shelby.