The 84th Annual Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction will have a Steelers' flavor as Cameron Heyward, Coach Mike Tomlin and the 'Voice of the Steelers,' radio play-by-play announcer Bill Hillgrove will all be honored at the event, which will be held on Feb. 10 at the Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown
Heyward is the winner of the prestigious Dapper Dan Sportsman of the Year, Tomlin has won the Freddie Fu Leadership Award, while Hillgrove is receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award.
"I don't know if I am even deserving of it," said a humbled Heyward, who as we all know is more than deserving of it. "I have seen the list of past winners. I am still comprehending what it means. I am honored. There were so many greats, whether it was Jerome Bettis, Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward, or Ryan Shazier. There are a lot of deserving people who aren't just great players but are also great people. It's an honor to be considered with them."
If you are looking for someone who personifies what it means to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers, you don't have to look any further than Heyward.
"Cameron Heyward is a Pittsburgher through his family, his grandparents, his mother, having been raised here, and his father (Craig Heyward) having been the great player for the Pitt Panthers," said Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert. "Cam was deeply rooted in this community before he even joined the Pittsburgh Steelers. We feel like he has taken significant steps to continue his family's legacy in this region.
"He is a special player. That has been documented by his play and the honors he has received in the National Football League and through his off-the-field endeavors through his community involvement and activities."
He doesn't just wear the black and gold, it's in his heart, in his soul and his love for his team motivates him daily to be a better player.
This year Heyward had one of his best seasons, earning first-team AP All-Pro honors for the second time in his career and earning him his second-straight Pro Bowl selection. Heyward has been a rock for the defense throughout his career and dominated more than ever this year, finishing the year with nine sacks.
"He is our captain. He is the best at what he does," said nose tackle Javon Hargrave. "He is dominating the league. He has been dominating for the last five years, ever since I got here. He is just playing at a high level. He just shows you how to practice, what he does. He beats his players easily in a game. I don't know how he does it. He is just that good."
Heyward brings more to the table than just his play. He is a leader on and off the field, taking his defensive captain duty serious as he guides young players and also being someone who gives back to the community continuously through The Heyward House.
"Just to have a guy like that, a veteran leader who shows some of us younger guys the right way to do things in this football world," said Hargrave. "He dominates what he does. He takes care of his body, does the right thing. Me coming from a smaller school he is one of the people who taught me the right way to live my life and go about football."
The Freddie Fu Leadership Award honors someone who brings leadership to another level, and that is exactly what Tomlin does.
"Coach Tomlin is a natural leader," said Colbert. "When you walk into a room you know who he is, what he is about. And he knows you without even meeting you. And he knows how to help you become a better, more productive player, scout, GM, whatever, because not only of his willingness to work with you but show you how you can be better through his own merits and effort. It's so natural, it just happens.
"Coach Tomlin will walk into a room and he is in charge. It's just a presence that runs with him. It goes in our building, on the practice field and in the community. It's very much like Cameron Heyward."
Tomlin said there are a lot of people he has picked up tips from as far as his role as a leader, but the main ones were those who coached him along the way.
"I think back to the coaches and the attributes of the coaches I had when I played and the things I felt like I needed from them, that I appreciated that they provided," said Tomlin. "That has always been my compass. More than anything my coaching voice and the spirit in which I do it was developed from that perspective. It's not about me. It's not about us as coaches. It's about the development of the players, the maturation of the players, getting the very best out of the players. It's about providing them whatever they need."
Tomlin's leadership has been strong and steady from his arrival in Pittsburgh but got more attention this year as he kept things together for the team when they got off to an 0-3 start and finished the year with an 8-8 record.
"Coach Tomlin was the major role behind the turnaround," said Bud Dupree. "He kept us afloat the whole time, kept our head above water, even when we almost drown. There are so many words you can say about Coach Tomlin in this situation, making it happen the way he did."
The way he did, was with that same approach that he had from Day 1. Never blinking.
"He was staying positive, holding everybody accountable, making sure everybody is doing the right thing," said Jaylen Samuels. "He was poised and staying positive."
Hillgrove is a fixture when it comes to Pittsburgh sports. He just completed his 26th season as the Steelers radio play-by-play commentator and has been calling games for the University of Pittsburgh since 1969 when he did only road games, and then 1970 when he became the full-time color commentator and then play-by-play announcer since 1974.
"The first year with the Steelers was 1994. I remember the first day at training camp as a 53-year old rookie. I blocked in Bill Cowher's car and I heard about it," said Hillgrove. "It's hard to believe it went this quickly.
"When they say the standard is the standard, it certainly is very high for the Pittsburgh Steelers."