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  • Writer's pictureBrett Favre

Former New Orleans Saints Legend Craig 'Ironhead' Heyward's Son Honored As Walter Payton NFL Man Of The Year

The NFL named today that Cameron Heyward a Defensive Tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers is the 2023 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. Nationwide is the most prestigious honor of the entire league and singles out NFL players who not only excel on the field but also show that they currently have a passion for creating a lasting positive impact beyond the game. The award in its current form was created for the first time in 1970, but became known as the ‘Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award’. The late ‘Hall of Fame’ Chicago Bears running back, Mr. Walter Payton was the reason for the new name. The announcement was made at NFL Honors, the League's yearly awards show which airs on CBS tonight at 7 PM EST.

Before the 2022 Super Bowl, all 32 Club Man of the Year Nominees will be recognized for their contributions to the game and the community in advance. The Man of the Year pregame presentation will feature Heyward, who will be honored as the 2023 recipient.

“Character and community contributions, that Cameron Heyward is known of, by his teammates, the community, and the wider NFL family, were mentioned by the NFL Commissioner," said Roger Goodell. He has a specific significance to his hometown, where he is from Pittsburgh, and the Steeler team, as he plays for. This uniqueness has arisen from his donation to literacy, being a tutor and his advocacy for justice. Under his leadership with his deeds like the Heyward House Foundation, Suiting Up for Success and the Voices of Hope Scholarship the less fortunate in his community receive aid they desperately need. It is with great pride that we announce Cameron Heyward as our award recipient of the 2023 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.

“As Nationwide rejoices in the honor bestowed upon Cameron Heyward as this year’s Walter Payton Man of the Year, Ramon Jones, the Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Nationwide, said." " Being a brand that seek to protect, serve and make communities strong, we are humbled to celebrate Cameron Heyward’s effort to better the lives of people during this 10th year of being the award’s presenting sponsor."

For thirteen NFL seasons, Cameron Heyward has repeatedly emerged as the leading voice in the locker room and is known for routinely coming up with some of the best defensive line plays in the league. With 78.5 career sacks, Steelers defensive lineman has the highest number of sacks by one since 1982; third-most by an active NFL defensive tackle and among Steelers in franchise history In the nine seasons he’s served as defensive captain, he has 116 tackles for loss and is third among active defensive linemen and also has 177 quarterback hits, which also makes him ranks third among the active. Of all the personal accomplishments of Hayward on the field, there are six Pro Bowls, three Associated Press First Team All-Pro, three Pro Football Focus First Team All-Pro distinctions, and two Pro Football Writers of America All-NFL mentions, among many others. Besides this, Heyward is second only to the Steelers’ interior defensive linemen (DT-NT) to be named Associated Press First-Team All-Pros multiple times.

Having his mother and three brothers as his household, Heyward remembers the life of hardships which single parent’s children and parents endured. Now, Heyward, as a son, brother, husband and father, find a family very important and pass on the idea of service to his children. He wishes to create a lasting legacy. He set up The Heyward House Foundation in 2014 in honor of this, dedicated to fighting hunger, fighting cancer, supporting literacy, and championing students and teachers.

The fact that both of Heyward’s late grandparents served as educators for many years in the Pittsburgh Public Schools gives an explanation to the launch of the Rufus and Judy Jordan Literacy Project that was founded as a branch of the Heyward House Foundation in 2020. Heyward implemented this project with a view to solicit Little Free Libraries for underprivileged communities and provided more than 9,300 child-friendly meals for children to take home on weekends.

Heyward started a partnership with The Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation in the honor of his father who passed away of brain cancer and was an ambassador for education raising $40,000 in scholarships that help patients and families of patients fight brain cancer while pursuing post-secondary education.

Heyward, having been a pillar on the field and in Pittsburgh, a six-time Steelers Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee, has served as a leader of many projects in the area of community outreach, especially during the 2023-2024 season, thereby giving the community the needed help.

Heyward, who missed six games with the injury during the current season, used his return to the field as a platform to host a group of high school players, who were nominated by their coaches for having similar experiences. The invited students witnessed the practice, conversed with the team and brainstormed strategies to battle challenges.

Cam's charity impetus was visible through the second Cam's Kindness Week, that was a series of activities intended to improve the lives of children, students, health workers and athletes. Cam’s Kindness Week started with a book reading session for patients in a children’s hospital, followed by a Kindness Week Kickoff party and a party and covered all the cost of the meal for the staff, healthcare workers and patients’ family.

Through the whole week, he imparted lessons to students affected by the social justice system, children grappling with loved ones’ deaths, and high school student-athletes on the value of struggle in the pursuit of one’s goals. Via Kindness Week's culmination, Heyward has brought the latest Craig's Closet facility to being, a project established in 2018 which provides young men to have professional attire in order to attend job interviews and internship opportunities. At present, Craig's Closet has 16 locations in the city of Pittsburgh and offers more than 700 young men the chance to become a part of the Heyward's Suiting Up For Success mentoring scheme.

Heyward will get a donation of $250,000 that will be used to sponsor his favourite charity. The most that each candidate could get is $55,000. All donations are made through the donation by the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.

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