Son of Ironhead Good Fit in Steel City
By Brandon Castel
Cam Heyward wasn’t the first player taken in Thursday night’s NFL draft.
He wasn’t second or third either.
He wasn’t even the first Cam.
Photo by Dan Harker
In all, 30 players came off the board before Heyward was taken with the 31st pick, including four other defensive linemen from the Big Ten.
Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt went to the Texas at 11 and Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan to the Redskins at 16. The Chargers took Illinois defensive tackle Corey Luiget with the 18th pick and Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn went two picks later to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Many thought the New England Patriots would take Heyward with the 28th pick, but in typical Bill Belichick fashion, they traded out of the first round instead.
All of this opened the door for Heyward to fall to the Pittsburgh Steelers at pick No. 31, and when their logo popped up on the screen, it only seemed inevitable that he would be their pick.
This was a match made in gridiron heaven.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin had been in Columbus to watch Heyward’s private workout back in March and Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is an Ohio native who played under Woody Hayes on the 1957 Ohio State national championship team.
Pittsburgh was the first team to select a Buckeye in last year’s draft when they took defensive end/linebacker Thad Gibson in the fourth round. They followed it up with the selection of OSU defensive lineman Doug Worthington three rounds later.
Neither Gibson nor Worthington are still with the Steelers, but that didn’t stop them from targeting Heyward in the draft.
Cam Heyward is the son of former NFL running back Craig “Ironhead” Heyward. While he was most known for his time with the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons, Ironhead played his college ball at the University of Pittsburgh, where he became the school’s third all-time leading rusher in just three seasons.
At 5-11 and close to 300 pounds, Ironhead was a punishing runner and a devastating blocker. His physical running style made him a nightmare for would-be tacklers and his heart made him an immediate fan-favorite in the “Steel City.”
Ironhead retired from football in 1998 after 11 violent seasons in the NFL. He died in 2006 at the young age of 39 from a malignant bone cancer at the base of his skull. He never got to wear the “Black and Gold” but he would be proud to see his son playing in the city where he got his start.
On the football field, Cam Heyward embodies everything that his father represented. He is tough, nasty and he will never, ever quit. Off the field, he has adopted the mild-mannered persona instilled by his mother, Charlotte Heyward-Blackwell.
He is a leader, a fighter, a believer. More importantly, he is a guy other players can believe in, and one who expects more from himself than anyone else ever could.
Cam Heyward represents the better part of sports. He is one of the “good guys;” one of the guys who did it the right way. The Pittsburgh Steelers are getting a great football player, but an even better human being. That is a phrase that gets thrown around far too often, but it’s the perfect way to describe Cam Heyward.
A tough-nosed, 300-pound lineman, Heyward will fit in perfectly with LeBeau’s 3-4 defensive scheme in Pittsburgh. NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said he sees Heyward as a prototypical defensive end in the 3-4 because of his ability to both rush the passer and play the run.
It’s only fitting that a kid whose dad was named Ironhead would get to play for the Steel Curtain.
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