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It's a family affair

There was a lot of talk before the NFL Draft about where Michigan State tight end/fullback Connor Heyward might land.

And of course, the Heyward family, including older brother and Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward, heard it. It was impossible not to. It was impossible not to have the thought about where he could end up in the back of their mind.

"I always felt like they were interested but I didn't want to get my expectations too high," said Connor Heyward. "I never teased myself one bit. If it didn't happen, I wasn't going to put that in my head."

They knew with how unpredictable the NFL Draft is, that they had to manage their hopes. Because nothing ever works out the way you dream.

Or does it?

"There were about eight teams his agent had identified that had Connor on their list and were thinking about possibly drafting Connor," said his mother, Charlotte Heyward. "The Steelers were one of them. I didn't think it would work out that way. I mean, what was the chance of that?"

As time ticked on the third day of the draft, the nerves were getting worse for everyone. It had been a long three days, with Connor's future hanging in the balance.

"Connor was a bag of nerves, and I was a bag of nerves," said Charlotte. "I needed to go for a walk. I took my two dogs and Cam's youngest daughter, Caia, and we went for a walk. I was going to go talk to God. I just need to go talk to God and talk to our angels up there and ask to help us out here because we're all stressed.

"We were walking up to the corner of my street and one of my good friends came running out of his house and said he got a call. You've got to turn around. I was like, 'Oh my gosh, Caia, let's go. She's two and I might have at a time had her in the air with the two dogs as we ran down the hill to see who the caller was."

And the caller was none other than Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin, letting Connor Heyward know they selected him in the sixth round and he would now be a teammate of his older brother Cameron.

"Connor was pacing, talking and then somebody said, I think it's the Steelers," said Charlotte. "And then I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' And then Connor was just saying, 'Yes sir. Yes sir. No sir. Yes sir.' And then he grabbed me, and I was hugging him. And I started to cry. And then I think Coach (Mike) Tomlin was like, are you okay? He told him that's my mom. It was pretty amazing."

For mom, getting the news was pretty quick once she got home. But for Cameron, his little brother had him sweating it out some. When Connor got the call from Tomlin, big brother was right beside him trying to find out who was on the other end of the phone.

"He followed me into my mom's room and was like who is that?" said Connor. "I told him just one second. It was Coach Tomlin. About halfway through I told him who it was, and his facial reaction was just priceless."

Priceless is definitely the word to describe it, because in true brotherly fashion, Connor played with Cameron some as he was on the phone. While Connor was still on the phone with some of the Steelers staff, and before he gave his brother the news, Tomlin called Cameron.

"This is the thing," said Cameron. "He walked into my mom's room and then I walk into the room and the phone rings, and I couldn't see the number. And then I look at the screen and Chicago is up. I'm like, okay, maybe Chicago. Got it. And then after he started talking to the coach, I still couldn't tell. And I ask who it is, and he walks away from me. I'm in a state of what just happened. Maybe 30 seconds later, Coach Tomlin calls me and I'm like, 'Oh, snap.' This fool just walked away, and he didn't tell me the Pittsburgh Steelers. So yeah, pretty priceless."

With a 10-year difference between the two, this will be the first time the brothers are on the same team.

"I've never played with him. I've only watched him play," said Cameron. "I can still remember one of the first basketball games I got to see while I was in college. When I came back home, he was playing. He fouled out and he was literally in tears. Even though he was blowing up the team. My brother is one of the most competitive people I know."

One thing the Steelers stressed was Connor wasn't drafted just because his big brother is on the roster and that they will be on the field together. Quite the opposite. They love what he can bring not just to just to the offense, but also on special teams.

"Obviously people understand who he is," said General Manager Kevin Colbert. "First and foremost, that's not why we drafted him. Connor Heyward was a running back at Michigan State, and really I give Coach (Mel) Tucker and his staff credit for taking Connor and using him in a different manner as an H-back/tight end/fullback.

"Connor has got exceptional ball skills, receiving abilities, for a big man. We're excited to see what he can do as a tight end, as an H-back, as a special teamer. He's very, very talented. He's very versatile."

Tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts said the team will start Heyward out as a tight end.

""I had an opportunity to look at him as a tight end, as a move guy, and he offers some value," said Roberts.

Connor does have position flexibility, including fullback and being a threat on special teams and is willing to anything and everything that is asked on him.

"I see myself as all of those and so do they," said Connor. "They like my versatility. I know special teams is an important thing. I know what it takes to be successful on special teams. I know special teams can keep you in the NFL longer. You can't shy away from that. That is something you have to want to do.

"They have a plan for me. No matter what it is, I am going to embrace it. I am excited to be a Steeler."

And he isn't the only one.

"I never thought something like this would happen," said Charlotte, whose family is from Pittsburgh and was born in the city. "We never raised our kids to play thinking that they would play professional sports. I never thought they'd play professionally, let alone play together and in the city where I was born. I've been a Steeler fan since I was a little girl. This is a movie, it isn't real. It's surreal. Until I see them on the field together at Heinz Field, I don't think it will hit me."

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