With Father’s Day approaching, it’s a nice time to repost an article on Cam and his father Craig (Ironhead) from 2011…
From Gerry Dulac, Pittsburgh Post Gazette:
Cameron Heyward: Ironhead’s son new man of steel
Larger-than-life father constructed a legend here and, now, his even bigger son gets a chance to add to the legacy.
Nothing about Craig “Ironhead” Heyward was small.
Not the thick, powerful torso that could generate the thundering explosion of a rhinoceros yet produce the graceful leaps of a ballerina. Not the helmet that seemingly fit like a surgical glove on his head. Not tales of his eating binges or mischievous missteps on campus. And certainly not the daunting legacy of what he accomplished on the football field.
Most assuredly, there was nothing small about the son he produced, either — not in size, not in character, not in the lofty manner with which he is regarded by coaches, teammates and family members.
Craig Heyward was a large man with large adventures, and anyone who ever met the former Pitt running back has never forgotten the encounter.
“Everyone just got so attached to him,” said Steelers defensive assistant Jerry Olsavsky, one of Heyward’s teammates at Pitt in the late 1980s. “He had that way about him. It’s still hard for me to talk about him.”
Heyward’s legacy, which carried him to an 11-year career in the National Football League, was as imposing as his 5-foot-11 frame that carried anywhere from 270 to 300 pounds. He finished his career as the school’s third all-time leading rusher and his heroics in 1987 — his final season at Pitt — remain the stuff of Panthers lore.
Now, five years after his father died at age 39 from continuing problems related to brain cancer, his son wants to carry on his dad’s legacy in the same town where he was born and raised for eight years.
“I want to pick up where he left off and improve on it,” said Cameron Heyward, the Steelers’ No. 1 draft pick in what can only be considered a delicious and melodramatic twist of fate for him and his family.
It is a wonderful and emotional story, the Steelers taking Cameron Heyward, Ironhead’s son.
His mom, Charlotte, grew up in Highland Park, went to Peabody High School and started dating Craig Heyward when both were sophomores at Pitt. His maternal grandparents, Judy and Rufus Jordan, still live in the same house in Highland Park they have inhabited for 31 years.
A day after it all started to unfold, they still can’t believe it.
“It’s surreal — my teeth still hurt from smiling so much,” Charlotte Heyward was saying Friday on the phone from her home in Atlanta. “We can’t believe this has happened to us. Right after the Steelers called, I told him, ‘Your dad’s up there, working something out.’ ”
It must have seemed that way to Heyward, a four-year defensive end at Ohio State. As team by team kept popping up on television, he kept looking at his phone, hoping it would not ring. When the New York Jets, the team the Steelers expected to draft Heyward, picked Temple defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson with the 30th overall pick, Heyward’s heart started to race when his phone rang.
He looked at the number.
“412,” he said, referring to the area code.
“I almost couldn’t believe what I heard,” said Judy Jordan, his grandmother and a retired public-school teacher, who was sitting in the room. “When his agent leaned over and said Pittsburgh was on the phone, I don’t know, I just couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I never thought it was them.”
And, just like that, Cameron Heyward is back where it all started, back where he was born and spent the first eight years of his life living in Monroeville.
“I think he fits us,” said Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, himself an Ohio State graduate. “And I think we fit him.”
It is a perfect match, all the way around.
It seems too good to be true for Heyward and his family. And he seems too good to be true to the Steelers.
“If we had all Cam Heywards, we wouldn’t have any gray hair,” Ohio State coach Jim Tressel was gushing over the phone. “He’s a special kid.”
“I’ve been coaching defensive line for a long time and there’s none better, as far as off the field and well-rounded,” said Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock. “I’d hate to say it, he’s almost flawless.”
At Ohio State, Heyward did whatever he was asked. He did it for four years, resisting the temptation to turn professional after his junior season.
The Buckeyes would play him inside in 4-3 schemes, outside in 3-4 fronts, use him to stuff the run and ask him to collapse the pocket. He started 46 of 52 games, had 37 1/2 tackles for losses and 15 sacks, which ranked 11th in school history.
“He’s highly unusual in that you just don’t see that kind of full package in a player,” Tressel said. “It starts with humility. He’s just a humble guy. If you don’t start with that, you’re not going to have the whole package — and not everyone starts with that.”
Humility is a good trait for a Steelers defensive lineman. Members of the three-man front play in relative anonymity, thanks to a two-gap, stop-the-run style employed by LeBeau and defensive line coach John Mitchell.
Heyward did that with the Buckeyes, who use a lot of the same defensive schemes the Steelers do. That is no accident. Heacock and other members of the Ohio State defensive staff have made annual visits to the South Side to meet with LeBeau, the former Buckeye.
That means Heyward (6-5, 288) could have less difficulty adapting to the schemes and philosophy of the Steelers defense, though expecting him to play much as a rookie is not advisable.
“Football-wise, he goes hard every down, that’s the thing that stands out to me,” Heacock said. “In all the time he’s been here, I never remember him taking a play off, a drill off or a practice off. Everything he did was 100 mph.
“He has a contagious enthusiasm and he has it all the time, every day. As a coach, it was nice having him in the room because he always took care of that aspect. He held everybody around him to a high standard.”
Now it is Cameron who is trying to live up to another standard — the impact his dad had and the legend he carved in the city.
“He was so strong but he had the running instincts of a smaller man,” LeBeau said of Craig Heyward, a former No. 1 draft choice of the New Orleans Saints in 1988 who played with four other NFL teams. “That’s a devastating combination if you are trying to contain him.”
That’s the only thing Ironhead did that was ever small.