BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — With 10 touchdowns to his name, the South Dakota State faithful surely know the name Zach Heins but you may not know his family’s story, and the loss that’s shaped him into the man he is today.

“I have the opportunity that they never got. You know, bad day… well, great. I’m sure they would love to have a bad day,” SDSU Senior Tight End Zach Heins said.

“Second or third grade, I forget exactly what it said,” Russ Heins stated.

“It listed off what he wanted to do with his life,” Jodi Heins continued.

“What do you want to do when you grow up,” Russ added.

“And one of them was play for South Dakota State,” Jodi said.

After staring at tight end and winning 3 state championships as a Washington Warrior, Zach Heins’ childhood dream would come true.

“He’s the guy you want younger guys to kind of watch and emulate. He’s always got a smile on his face, he’s always got a joke, he’s a great presence to have in the room, but he’s also kind of that veteran, he’s the 35-year-old vet that has a smoke and a Coke at halftime,” SDSU Tight Ends Coach Chris Meyers said.

Perhaps that calm and joyful attitude can be traced back to an event before he was alive. In 1996, Jodi and Russ Heins would welcome in their first child, Zach’s oldest brother Austin. Three years later, Jodi would give birth to a set of twin boys, Luke and Tyler. But after being born prematurely, due to complications, the twins would pass away just a month after being born.

“You know we have great families,” Jodi began.

“It’s true, family and friends; we had a lot of people to help us out,” Russ continued.

“You don’t wish it on anybody, but at the same time, we’re not the first ones either,” Jodi expressed.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them because when they passed away my parents said well God wanted us to have two more children, and so that’s why me and Sydney came around,” Zach said.

A year after the twins passing, in April of 2000, Zach was born. Three years later, Sydney would come into the world.

“It was pretty apparent early on something wasn’t quite right. But nobody really knew and it turns out she had a very rare diagnosis. There were a hundred living cases of in the world,” Jodi said.

Sydney was born with T.T.D. short for Trichothiodystrophy.

She was non-verbal, she didn’t move, she had a lot of disability if you want to say that. But she could let everybody know when she was happy or when she was not happy,” Jodi said of her child. “She didn’t hit the 3rd percentile in the growth chart, so she was tiny, she looked like a baby her whole life.”

With a limited amount of research on her prognosis, an expected life span was somewhat unknown prompting the family to take a day-by-day approach. In late July of 2012, at the age of 9, Sydney would pass away.

“She’s the reason who I am today. Football isn’t always easy, life isn’t always easy. Everyone usually has that why that gets them through the day, they have a purpose that no one really sees, but it’s the reason why they keep going. Those guys are my purpose. Every game day I write S.A.L.T. down, Sydney, Austin, Luke and Tyler which are all my siblings,” Zach said.

“I do think it’s shaped a lot of who they (Zach and Austin) are and what’s important and what’s not,” Jodi said of her boys. “I think all of us in our house… we don’t sweat the small things.”

Zach and SDSU are back in action this Saturday against Indiana State for the Hobo Day game.