Offseason Program

Heyward-Bey: 'I embrace it'

When you ask an NFL player who their football role model is, the answer is normally someone who helped mold them along the way, a coach, a parent, or someone they watched play.

But when you ask Marcus Tucker, you get a different answer.

His football role model or inspiration is someone who has a locker not far from his, fellow receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey.

"He comes in every day, works hard," said Tucker. "He was a first-round draft pick, but he works like he was one of the guys who still has to prove himself day-in and day-out. I love how he helps the young guys out. He is so knowledgeable about the game, as far as the receiver spot and special teams goes. He is one of the guys I look up to as far as effort, working hard and knowledge."

Heyward-Bey broke into a big smile when he heard what Tucker had to say, humbled and surprised to hear the words of the young receiver.

"It lets me know I am doing something right," said Heyward-Bey. "I look forward and always appreciate the opportunity to come here and not only get the work in for myself, but also be someone guys can lean on when they have questions about football, when they have questions about life. I have seen it all. I was a first-round draft pick, I was a starter, special teams, a guy coming off the bench. I have seen a lot in this league.

"I understand there are eyes on me, younger guys have their eyes on me. I have to bring the effort every day."

The Steelers participate in the 2018 minicamp at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex.

He does just that. Heyward-Bey, who is entering his 10th season in the NFL, was a much-heralded first-round pick of the Oakland Raiders in 2009, the seventh pick overall that year. But since signing with the Steelers, his role has changed. He isn't a featured receiver, but instead one who might get thrown to once or twice a game. And even in his 10th year, playing on special teams is still something that doesn't stress him, doesn't bother, and isn't beneath him by a long shot.

"I have embraced the role," said Heyward-Bey. "As long as I am doing my job, I'll have a job. That is the way I look at it. That is most important to me, to fight with my teammates to win a championship and provide for my family.

"It's an adjustment, but you take the strides, you understand this is where I am in my career. This is my role, who I am right now, and I embrace it. A lot of people wake up in the morning, brush their teeth and lie to themselves. I try not to. I try to tell myself the truth so I can get better."

That attitude has paid dividends for Heyward-Bey.

"You have to come in here with a fresh mind every day and focus on getting better. It doesn't matter what round you were drafted, what you did the year before. Every year is different, and you have to prove yourself."

Heyward-Bey has seen the Steelers bring in wide receivers through free agency, has seen young players drafted, including second-round pick James Washington this year. He welcomes it, and instead of focusing on how to beat them out, he focuses on helping them so the team improves.

"I look at it as a challenge, as an opportunity for me to compete," said Heyward-Bey. "Also a challenge for me to get to know the guys and where can I help him. A guy like James, I always encourage him because he is quiet, he doesn't say too much. When he makes a big play, I am the first guy over there to say way to make that play, good job."

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