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The joy of fatherhood

Today is a day to celebrate fathers everywhere, and in the Steelers locker room, there are players who are singing the joys of being a father.

Several players shared their stories of what they love about being a father, the joy they get out of it, and the special moments they share with their kids.

Happy Father's Day.


Cameron Heyward sat in the Steelers locker room and laughed when the question was asked.

How has being a father changed you.

"It's made my heart bigger," said Heyward, the smile engulfing his face.

If you know Heyward, there is one thing that you are well aware of.

His heart is huge.

But having three kids, Callen (6), Chloe (4), and Caia (2), he insists that it did in fact make his big heart even bigger.

"It really had made my heart bigger," Heyward continued. "I just think the level of patience you have to have as a dad. I want to leave a legacy like my dad left for me. That becomes even more motivation for me than anything I do."

Heyward remembers the moments he shared with his father, Craig 'Ironhead' Heyward, who played for the New Orleans Saints. He is now able to share those moments with his kids, in particular Callen who understands what it is his father does now.

"It's becoming cooler because they understand it," said Heyward. "The last time I got to take him to camp, he was like three years old, so he didn't really appreciate it. I am looking forward to giving him more of a behind the scenes look this year.

"That is what I always loved. My dad would put me on his shoulders after games, take me in the locker room. I want to be able to do that with my son and show him what I do close up."

There are moments, though, when kids will be kids and not really know that what dad does is kind of unique.

"All of my kids, they will see me on television and be like why is dad on television," said Heyward. "They could care less about the fact that I have been on television. They care more about that is my dad.

"My son came home one day and said do you know that dad is the only guy who plays in the NFL in my entire classroom. And my wife was like, it's not really like that. It's not a common thing for someone to play in the NFL."

Heyward said the biggest joy he gets is that love from his kids, something so simple, so innocent, and so sweet.

"What I love is they love me for me," said Heyward. "My daughters are sweeter to me than my son, and that is why I treat my son different than I treat my daughters."

But one thing he makes sure, is he treats them all with love, learning new lessons daily.

"If you think you have all of the answers for your kids, you are sadly mistaken," said Heyward. "I am constantly learning. I don't have all the right answers. Most of the time I am learning on the fly. I appreciate those moments, because for the most part we can grow from them."

* * *


The smile on Mitch Trubisky's face said it all.

He lit up like a Christmas tree when talking about his one-month-old son, Hudson David.

You could see the joy, the happiness, the pride, the love, the new father was feeling as he was preparing to embark on his very first Father's Day.

Trubisky and his wife, Hillary, welcomed Hudson to the world on May 9, and his life changed the minute he set eyes on him.

"It's amazing," said Trubisky. "I am so excited every day to go home and spend time with my wife and son. It's incredible seeing someone you half created, and the other half is your favorite person in the world, which is my wife.

"I always wanted to be a dad. Being in the NFL and being a dad are my two dreams coming true. There is a different switch you turn on. You don't care about yourself as much anymore. You just worry about that little baby, making sure he is getting stronger, getting fed, getting the sleep he needs.

"He keeps me focused. I am more alert. I am so excited to go home every day and spend time with him and watch him grow and make sure I can be the best role model and father for him. It's only been a month or so. I am new to it. But it's something I always looked forward to and I am enjoying it."

While Hudson is too young to toss a football with yet, or even fully grasp what life is all about, Trubisky has already grasped what being a dad is all about.

"Going home and holding him, looking at him when he sleeps, it's special," said Trubisky. "I haven't been a morning person in the past, but now I wake up super early, wide-eyed ready to hold my son in the morning. I look forward to that now. I am comforting him, getting him anything he needs, changing diapers, helping mom out anyway I can.

"You just cherish those moments. The television is not on, just sitting there for two or three hours while your son is sleeping in your arms, just looking at him, it's a crazy feeling. It's been so fun. I can't wait to continue to make more memories as he continues to grow, getting stronger and develop."

Trubisky joked that while he has changed diapers before because of having a large family with cousins and the like, he has changed his share of diapers. But that numbers increased considerably over the last month.

"I have changed diapers before, but I changed more in the last four weeks than I have in my entire life combined," laughed Trubisky. "I try to take as many diaper changing duties away from my wife as possible because she already has so many responsibilities.

"Because of my wife I am able to balance football and come home and be a dad. It's been so fun."

Trubisky said he it's already been a joy for them to raise their son and have definitely leaned on family for support.

"Both of our parents have been incredible and huge role models in our lives," said Trubisky. "Both of our moms have been incredible. Her mom and sister have been at the house helping her recovery, supporting us and the baby. We have had a lot of guidance and help.

"It's something we always looked forward to and there is no one right way to parent, but we are going to give everything we can to love this baby as much as possible. We have always looked forward to it. Now it's something we get to do together and work through as a team to create a family and make it strong."

* * *


All it takes is one look at Derek Watt's Instagram feed to know the two things he loves the most.

Family and football.

Watt's Instagram is filled with images of his family, in particular his wife, Gabriella, and their two sons, three-year-old Logan and one-year-old Brayden, who keep their lives happy and hopping.

"It's incredible," said Watt. "I have two boys and it's so special. They are little extensions of my wife and I. They are so special to me. There isn't anything I wouldn't do for them. Just being able to go home every day and have them yell daddy when I come in the door and come over and give me a big hug. That is the best.

"I love to put them in bed at night, read them a book and just lay there with them. It's like nothing I have ever experienced before. I was never around kids much before this, neither of my brothers have kids, so we weren't around a lot of kids. Going through it the first time in our family is special. And just seeing the relationship they have with my brothers and my wife's brother is special."

It's those moments when he walks in the door after a day at practice that are really special, when they come running to him with joy and excitement on their tiny faces.

"It's incredible to see how excited they are," said Watt. "They look up to their parents. We are the most important people to them. It's like an extension of how my parents are, grandma and grandpa, and my wife's parents, and how excited they get to talk to them and see that interaction.

"To see and know how much we mean to them, and they truly do look up to us, it's incredible.

"You have to watch yourself because they look at you a little too much and then they do something you don't want them to do. It's a two-way street there. It's amazing and incredible, and I wouldn't change anything about having my two boys."

Watt had two brothers growing up, older brother J.J. and younger brother T.J., and said he has a better understanding now of what his parents had to handle when they were growing up.

"When we have our hands full, my parents will say that was you, you were the troublesome one," said Watt. "You were always getting into stuff you shouldn't have. That is my youngest one. He will intentionally do stuff he knows he shouldn't and then he will wait for a look and laugh and smile and do it. Then we go over by him, and he will run away because he knows he shouldn't do it. He definitely tests us for sure.

"We are definitely always learning stuff. There are days when you are like being a dad is tough, being parents isn't easy. There are new things that come up that are challenging. The good outweighs the tough. There is always something new and they are a blessing and it's incredible."

One thing Watt hasn't had to deal with since his sons were born is leaving them for training camp because the last two years it was held at Heinz Field because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, though, he will have some extended time away from them when the team reports to Saint Vincent College for training camp, and he wants to make sure he gives them the time they need.

"This will be the first year of training camp, going away to Latrobe," said Watt. "I have been fortunate enough to go home every night and not have to stay away at training camp. This year will be different because I will be away from them at night for about a week at a time.

"During the offseason I try and get as much time with them as possible. During the season we have longer days, we have road trips, things like that. I try to take advantage of it and get as much time with them as possible in the offseason and in the season, our off day, coming home and still getting the little things.

"I let them be the focus because they have been waiting all day for me to come home. No matter what kind of day I had, they have been waiting for me to come home. If I get to put them to bed, I take advantage of that as much as I can." 

* * *


Chris Wormley knew becoming a father would change him.

What he didn't know, was how much it would change him.

But since he and his wife, Alexis, welcomed daughter Spade into their lives two years ago, his life has definitely changed for the better.

"It gave me a new perspective," said Wormley. "I feel like I am a nicer person, more loving and more emotional, which I think my wife would say that, and I think she would like."

Now before thinking Wormley wasn't a nice guy before he became a dad, think again. He was. It's just that it has changed the way he approaches things, the outlook he has, the way he handles day-to-day issues.

"I have more compassion, not only for my daughter, but people in my life," said Wormley. "The way you shape somebody, or how they grow up, is their life experience.

"I want to give my daughter everything. I want to give her the world. I think everybody wants to give that to their kids. Knowing that and my background, it's just working through how to shape someone's life, which is a huge responsibility."

Wormley takes that responsibility seriously because he knows he is one of the two people that Spade looks to the most for guidance and love.

"When they are younger, they don't really know anything," said Wormley. "Being able to show them things. The greatest joy is like when you have a dog, and you go home, and they are so excited to see you. When I get home my daughter is so excited to see me. I am sure that is going to change when she is a 13-year-old and dad grounded her for a week.

"She changes every day. She has a different attitude every day. She has a different favorite snack every day. Her favorite book is always changing. It makes me a better person, more patient and be more compassionate for people in life, which is good.

"At this point and time her joy is for the small things in life, like getting a snack, or going to the pool. Those are the small things in life I enjoy the most."

And it's those small things that he makes sure he enjoys with her on a regular basis.

"During the offseason, I have more time to do whatever with her," said Wormley. "Whether that is coloring together, or going to the pool, reading bedtime stories. I read three books to her every night when I put her to bed. That is time that I look back at when I am on the road, and I think I wish I could be reading 'Corduroy' or 'The Rainbow Fish' to my daughter instead of listening to my defensive line coach going over film we watched 100 times during the week. Just those small little things I appreciate."

While the offseason allows plenty of opportunity for daddy-daughter time, managing it in-season is a whole different ball game.

"I had my daughter at the end of my third season and my fourth year was my first year here," said Wormley. "It was a hard balancing act between when do I watch film, when do I give her time, when do we eat dinner. This past season I handled it better.

"When I get home, it's her time and my wife's time until we put her to bed at 7-7:30. Then I get into football mode for two hours until I go to bed. It was tough getting into that flow at first. It's definitely a challenge, but I love every minute of the challenge."