Ohio State senior defensive lineman Cameron Heyward has received many honors. This summer, he’s been named to the 2010 Playboy Preseason All-America College Football Team, as well as the Ted Hendricks (best defensive end in the nation), Lombardi (best lineman) and Lott (best defensive player) Trophy watch lists.
He’s a guy that easily could have come out of school and received a nice NFL paycheck, but for the sake of his game and his development, stayed in school. Heyward was huge for Ohio State’s Top 5-ranked defense in 2009. He led all defensive linemen with 46 tackles and had his best game of the year with 9.0 tackles and 2.0 sacks in the win at Penn State. On the season he led the Buckeyes with 6.5 sacks and had 10 TFL, earning himself a 2009 Second Team All-Big Ten selection.
Heyward shares a fundamental trait with his Coach Jim Tressel: a famous father with a collection of accomplishments that he aims to (not just equal) but surpass one day.
“Tressel said, my Dad had a road named after him, but I want a highway. It shows that he’s aiming high and we’re all aiming high and expecting more out of each other,” Heyward told me at Big Ten Media Day.
By Paul M. Banks
Jim Tressel’s father, Lee Tressel coached at Mentor’s high school in Ohio; and after a 34-game winning streak, Lee was hired as head football coach for Baldwin-Wallace College in suburban Cleveland. B-W would go on to win the 1978 NCAA Division III National Championship under Tressel. Tressel the younger has a NCAA championship, and two more title game appearances under his belt so far.
Likewise, Heyward has a famous father with a legacy to live up to.
Craig “Ironhead” Heyward finished up his 11 season NFL career (mostly with New Orleans, but also a couple with Atlanta) with 4,301 rushing yards, 177 receptions for 1,559 yards, and 34 touchdowns. In the mid ’90s, Heyward the Elder displayed his sense of humor in television commercials for Zest body wash, highlighting the modern version of the Luffa that is now present in many showers and bathtubs. Heyward’s famous tough-guy image created a humorous dichotomy for the advertisements that were no doubt created with a metrosexual theme in mind.
(Yes, I know the word “metrosexual” is like so 2002).
Cameron talked about the influence of his father.
“The main thing I took from my Dad is he made the most out of every situation, enjoyed it to the fullest, and I think I just try to model that. He definitely left an impact on everybody he met, I want to do the same as well.”
It is said that Craig got his nickname from street football games in which he would lower his head into the stomach of the tackler; an opponent said it hurt so much that Heyward’s head must be made of iron.
“On the field he was a great competitor, one of the biggest backs with quick feet, but it’s hard to compare myself to him,” Cameron said. “I’m a totally different person, I heard the stories. He was wild, but I’m just glad to know that he was my father,” he continued.
Sadly, Cameron’s father was taken from him while he was still a teenager. In November 1998, Craig Heyward was diagnosed with a malignant bone cancer at the base of his skull. Partial removal of the tumor, coupled with 40 rounds of radiation therapy led to his being deemed cancer-free. However, in 2005 the tumor reoccurred and he tragically died on May 27, 2006 at the age of 39.
Today, Cameron honors his father on game days by etching the words IRON and HEAD on his eye black.
In 2010, Cameron will anchor a defensive line that loses five off the unit from last year, including Thaddeus Gibson and Doug Worthington – 18.0 tackles-for-loss and 6.0 sacks between them – and part-time starter Todd Denlinger (4.0 and 2.0, respectively) the most significant losses to overcome.
Heyward and the Buckeyes open the 2010 season at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 2 against Marshall at Ohio Stadium.
“If we take care of business like were supposed to, it’s going to be a magical season,” Heyward said at Media Day.
Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru