Ohio St.’s Heyward has “Sneaky Hot” NFL Draft Stock

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In order to motivate his stud D Lineman Cameron Heyward, Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel gave him a list of all the defensive linemen that were leaving for the NFL.

“He broke it down that if you want to be great you have to aim high, just don’t be satisfied with being good enough, and I told coach Tressel, I want to be the best out there. I’m setting my goals high and  expecting more,” Heyward told me at Big Ten Media Day.

Amongst Big Ten star players Heyward is very overlooked. People talk about his teammate, QB  Terrelle Pryor first, last year’s offensive conference player of the year, Wisconsin‘s John Clay second.  On defense, the conversation usually turns to Iowa‘s Adrian Clayborn, and perhaps Michigan State’s Greg Jones.

But Heyward could have been picked somewhere in the #15-#25 range in the NFL Draft had he come out last spring. His stock is rising for 2011; even though people don’t often talk about him. He’s the “sneaky hot” player in the Big Ten. I guess you could call him the Pam Beesly/Jenna Fischer of college football.

By Paul M. Banks

jenna fischer

Heyward loves college life, and college football too much to not come back for his senior season. At Media Day, he talked about his decision to return

“The NFL’s not guaranteed,” Heyward said. “This year’s going to be a good year, but I wanted to get my degree and prepare myself for after football. And have a backup plan, a lot of these guys who leave early don’t have a backup plan, and aren’t ready,” he continued.

How high he gets drafted will depend on his ability to flourish in both the 3-4 and the 4-3 schematics. The new hot trend these days is for collegiate defensive ends to transition into 3-4 outside linebackers. I asked Heyward about playing in both base defenses.

“I think the 4-3 is a better fit sometimes for running and physical teams, but in the 3-4 you can mix it up too, you can bring a couple linebackers up on the edge and bring your d linemen down in the middle,” he responded.

Any preference? “I’m pretty confident in both of ’em.”

And Heyward’s greatest strength? (according to him) “I think my bull rush is pretty good, but the thing I’m most confident about is just finding the ball and not giving up on the play.”jenna_fischer

He’s really quite agile for a man his size, and he improved on his speed and quickness in the ’09 off-season. Heyward told me what else he’s working on to take his game to the next level.

“Just working on technique and more pass-rushing moves and learning how to stay a little bit lower and tuning up.”

Then he gave me my favorite soundbite of the entire day: “I’m always looking to hit somebody,” before following up with the most ambitious soundbite I heard.

“You can’t just be Suh or being known as a player who’s just as good as (Detroit Lions DT and 2010 NFL #2 overall draft pick, Ndamukong) Suh, I just want to be the best out there,” Heyward said.

Very true. The mark of greatness isn’t living up to those who came before you, but exceeding them.

For part one of my exclusive with Craig “Ironhead” Heyward’s son go here.

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

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