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An emotional day for Heyward

Leading up to the 2024 NFL Draft, Steelers players will be sharing their Draft Day Memories, from the time they went to the NFL Scouting Combine, through the moment they were drafted. In this installment, tight end Connor Heyward gives his take.

Connor Heyward - 2022 NFL Draft - 6th Round

For our draft class it was great to have the NFL Scouting Combine take place again and be able to go there and showcase what I could do and show where I aligned with the other guys that played my position or had similar traits. It showcased where I stood overall. That was an opportunity for myself and my teammates in college to show our abilities.

I didn't look at it as a make-or-break opportunity, but it's something that you have to take advantage of. Something that you have to grasp. Obviously, your college play helps, and your college film helps. So, I wasn't too worried about it. I just wanted to go out there and showcase everything on the football field that I could do, whether that was catching, running, jumping. Showing that I was in good shape and ready to compete.

So much goes on at the combine, including the interviews with teams. They can be stressful. You don't know what to expect, honestly, but it's actually really cool. I remember being with Coach Fredo (Steelers tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts). I remember the whole conversation and just everything, meeting with everybody because now he's my position coach.

I didn't meet with the entire Steelers group. I just met with Fredo. I was upstairs with a lot of the tight ends, and we rotated from team to team, and I remember sitting down with Fredo. I don't think Fredo knew if they were interested in a tight end or what. And then they drafted me, and the rest is history. I'm glad they did.

In some ways you know what to expect from the combine because there are only a certain number of drills and you are ready for that, in shape for that. But you have to be locked in mentally and be able to stay locked in for the duration and not get sidetracked.

My brother, Cam, was at the combine doing some things for television. Honestly, I didn't even see him until after I did all of my stuff. He waved at me, but he was all the way up in the suite. It wasn't like I really got to see him up close until the end. Knowing he was watching me made me want to go out there and compete at a high level and catch every ball that was thrown my way and nail every drill.

After the combine I was focused on getting ready for my pro day at Michigan State. Every team was there. There were some position coaches working me out. I did a lot of fullback stuff, running back stuff, tight end stuff. I was running routes. I was tired by the end of the day. I was lining up at receiver, tight end, running back, all of it just trying to show everything I could do on the offensive side of the ball. It was just an opportunity to show what I could do. I benched there as well because I didn't bench at the combine. It was doing what I didn't do at the combine or stuff I did at the combine that I just wanted to show it wasn't a fluke and I could do it.

Having a pro day right on campus, I feel like a lot of people say that is easier than the combine, but me personally, I feel like the combine is more comfortable. In that atmosphere, when it's like a competitive atmosphere, that's when I rise to competition.

For me, draft day was a chance to be with all of my family. We were at my house in Georgia with all my siblings, my family, close friends, girlfriend. Everybody was there. It was crazy. I was getting stressed out at first not hearing my name called and I'm glad the Steelers called my name and it all paid off.

You just have to wait for that call and you can't control it. You just have to sit there. Be patient and trust in God and whatever happens, happens. God had a great plan for me, my family.

When I was waiting for the call, I just walked away from everybody at one point. I remember going into my mom's room. Everybody was in the living room, and I just walked to my mom's room. I just needed some space, and I was getting stressed out. Cam was like 'chill, it's going to work out.' Obviously, it did, and it was the Steelers.

When the phone rang, everybody was looking at me and I walked away. I was like one second. It was Coach (Mike) Tomlin. Cam followed me and was asking who is it? I was like, one second. And then he's like, who is it. I came back out and told everyone it was Pittsburgh. And then you saw on the screen. Cam was just laughing. Nobody could really believe it.

There were tears of joy. I remember when Coach Tomlin got on the phone, he was like why do you sound so mad? He could tell I was a little angry because I was mad about not being picked yet.

It didn't hit me till later. Honestly, it was surreal. I feel like it doesn't hit you until later when it sinks in. But it sunk in later that night and my mom and I were just hugging and extremely excited.

We've been working for this all our lives. And it happens. It's not the end, it's just the beginning. When you work for something all your life and you see your dreams come true and you are with the people that have sacrificed a lot, it's very emotional.

Cam gave me advice telling me just come to work every day with the lunch pail mentality, ready to work. Nothing is going to be given to you. Me being on a team, it doesn't mean anything. He also said he was going to support me and still be my big brother, nothing was going to change.