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Heyward happy to be home

Posted May 1, 2011

Cameron Heyward Press Conference Video
Dick LeBeau Press Conference Video

When his phone rang late in the first round of the NFL Draft, Cameron Heyward didn’t want to answer it. He thought the call was coming from the New York Jets, who had the 29th overall pick.

“It’s a funny story because the Jets were picking, and I know they had their pick in. And the phone rang, and they hadn’t announced that Pittsburgh was about to pick, so I got nervous,” said Heyward during his first press conference as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers. “And my agent came up to me and said it’s a Pittsburgh number. I said thank God.

“Coach (Mike) Tomlin and a couple others had told guys around me, like my position coach and my mom, that if he was there we would take him. But you don’t want to play into that. You go down a line and you go through the draft, I wanted to go to Pittsburgh so bad. I saw these teams and all I was looking to do was look at my phone and say don’t ring until the Steelers pick me. Luckily it worked out.”

Heyward’s happiness with being drafted by the Steelers comes from his Pittsburgh roots. His father, the late Craig “Ironhead” Heyward played for the University of Pittsburgh and his mother Charlotte Heyward-Blackwell is from Pittsburgh’s Highland Park neighborhood.

Heyward was born in Pittsburgh and while the former Ohio State Buckeye no longer lives in the area, he has plenty of family that does.  

“I was born here. My dad played for the Pitt Panthers. He met my mother in Pittsburgh. All my family is basically here,” said Heyward. “Just the chance to play here is like coming home. It’s your hometown. It’s an unbelievable opportunity. Not many people get to say they do this.

“I am just very thankful. My grandparents, all my extended family are from here. My grandmother was always giving me for Christmas Steelers sweatshirts. So she already knew it was going to happen. It was just a matter of time. The chance to come back home and play for this team is a great honor. It’s truly a humbling process. I am going to take it for what it’s worth.”

Heyward will have an opportunity to learn from some of the best defensive linemen in the game right now and that is something that isn’t lost on the young defensive end.

“It’s the best defense, one of the best offenses in our game today,” said Heyward, who was already sporting a Steelers polo shirt. “The chance to compete with these guys and a chance for me to get better, and learn from guys like Brett Keisel, Aaron Smith and Ziggy Hood, it’s a great opportunity. I look forward to taking knowledge from those guys, guys that have been here.

“I just want to learn a lot from these guys. Continue to work hard, compete. I am going into the best defensive line I think in the NFL and the best defense. I have a lot to learn and just take baby steps and continue to improve every single day and continue to help out this team as much as I possibly can.”

He has already heard from some of his new teammates, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Hines Ward. He got the full tour of the team’s facilities, from the locker room to the Super Bowl trophy room. And before the press conference ended, he was presented with his first Steelers jersey, sporting the number one and Heyward on the back. For the team’s top pick, it was a great day from the time he walked into the practice facility.

“It was exhilarating,” said Heyward. “There are just so many emotions where I am, just so thankful and it is just very humbling to be a part of great tradition, great team like this, great management, and great staff.  It’s just the overall feeling to know that you are headed in the right direction.  It’s the first step, but the right step.  I am going to embark on my journey and just grow as a player and a person. “

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