Kids want to talk to Cam Heyward. He’s used to it.
That’s life as an NFL player. That’s life as a Steeler in Pittsburgh. That’s life when you’re the defense’s most indispensable player, in the midst of your best season as a pro. It’s certainly life when you, as Heyward did, provide more than 200 families with Thanksgiving dinner. People are going to say “thanks.” It’s right there in the name.
So, yes, Heyward is accustomed to that sort of attention. That night last month at a food bank in Duquesne, though, wasn’t just about his own relationship — warmth, gratitude, comfort — with young fans. He was trying to spread the wealth to local police officers.
“The kids were talking to us, but the real cool thing was them talking to police officers, and feeling at ease, and understanding that people care about you, too,” Heyward said Friday. “They’re human beings. I think it goes a long way. I don’t know if we feel it directly yet, but I just think it can be accomplished over time.”
And “seeing it from an officer’s point of view” like Heyward said, is a huge part of the endeavor. It’s just as important, though, that the reverse is true. It’s not just how people handle police. It’s how police handle people.
That’s a big thing for Heyward; he said the Steelers have pushed for increased emphasis on de-escalating tense situations, which, Heyward said, Pittsburgh police generally handle well. The next step, he says, is to bring that to other departments across the state while also trying to attack systemic problems that talking to local officers can’t solve.
“Our main thing was, how can we get it out there? How can we get more people involved? We have a platform to perform that,” he said. “We have a platform to get it out there for police officers to recruit minorities. For officers to say, ‘we want you to be part of this.’
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