While Craig ‘Ironhead’ Heyward is a finalist for the College Football Hall of Fame class of 2021, there is no doubt about his status in Pittsburgh—specifically, Pittsburgh University’s own Hall of Fame. He will be posthumously inducted this year, set to take place on October 17 at Heinz Field, when the Panthers host Notre Dame.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will be hosting the Cleveland Browns the following day, so the team will be around, and how son, star Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, will be in attendance for the induction ceremony, which will surely be a special moment.
Heyward, born in Pittsburgh, grew up around football while his father, a fullback, was in the NFL. He had an 11-year career, spending his lengthiest stretch with the New Orleans Saints, who drafted him in 1988 in the first round. He would ultimately make one Pro Bowl in 1995 in the middle of his three-year stay with the Atlanta Falcons.
While he carved out a very fine NFL career for himself, however, his greatest legacy is that which he left on the field with the Panthers. During his three years there, he recorded 681 carries for 3086 yards with 24 touchdowns. In his final season in 1987, he recorded an astonishing 387 rushing attempts, gaining 1791 yards with 12 touchdowns. His nickname of Ironhead was well-earned.
During a Zoom call with the team’s website last week, he talked about his father and the honorifics that he has been receiving lately. His father passed away following a battle with cancer in 2006, while he was still in high school, before working on a first-round resume at Ohio State that led him to Pittsburgh.
“I never got to see him play in college, but to see the lasting imprint that he has had, and to be mentioned with so many greats that deserved to be here”, he told reporters during that teleconference last week. “It is amazing”.
It is fitting that this conversation, of course, happened around Father’s Day. Heyward has now been without his father in person for some time—for all of his adult life, now on the wrong side of 30. But he has always kept him close—sometimes too close for the league’s comfort.
Heyward has been fined multiple times for wearing the words ‘Iron Head’ on his eye black several years ago. He of course made no apologies for doing that—and he shouldn’t have—but he hasn’t done it for many years. I’m sure he has found other ways to keep his father’s memory close to his heart.