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Cam Heyward just won the only NFL award that really matters

If you had to pick winning an award based on statistics (or even numbers that PFF invents) or by being a good human being, which would you choose?

Yes, even though many Steelers fans went to bed angry Thursday evening about T.J. Watt not winning the 2023 Defensive Player of the Year Award and then woke up Friday morning still mad about it, I’d have to go with the good human being award.

Cam Heyward, the Steelers veteran defensive lineman, was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year at the NFL’s annual awards ceremony on Thursday evening. While Watt has seemingly been in the running for the DPOY every season since 2018, Heyward had been nominated a total of six times for the Walter Payton Award before finally receiving the honor.

You know what I say about that? I wouldn’t have cared if Heyward ever won Man of the Year because just being nominated that many times indicates what a kickass human being he’s always been.

It’s no secret that Heyward has been heavily involved in the Pittsburgh community since not long after the Steelers made him the 31st pick of the 2011 NFL Draft. If you don’t know Heyward’s charitable organization, it’s called the Cameron Heyward Foundation. You might know it as the Heyward House. 

Just click on the link to Heyward’s foundation. Cam is feeding the children. He’s fighting cancer. He’s helping kids learn how to read. He’s sending them to school. He’s clothing them. And that’s just the beginning of things. If the Steelers are handing out turkeys for Thanksgiving, Heyward is usually one of the players doing so. If there is a good cause that would benefit from the Steelers’ representation, Heyward is often one of the representatives.

He’s just a good person. Heyward’s mother, Charlotte, is also a good human being who helps her son run his foundation. She’s often on social media, making friends and spreading nothing but love and good vibes to everyone.

Heyward, whose late father, Craig, played for the University of Pittsburgh back in the 1980s before going on to have a decent career as a punishing NFL running back, could have disappeared in his dad’s enormous shadow.

After all, Heyward was drafted by the professional football team in the city that made his dad, who earned the nickname “Ironhead” when he was still a youth, famous.

But Heyward didn’t disappear. He stepped up. He’s gone on to have a career that has surpassed his father’s in terms of accomplishments. Heyward has 80.5 career sacks. He’s been named a First-Team All-Pro three times and has made the Pro Bowl six times. Heyward is a borderline Hall of Fame player and an all-time Steelers’ great on the field.

That second legacy has been cemented by the person Heyward has been off the field since the day he came to Pittsburgh. In addition to his considerable charitable work, he’s also a team captain. He’s a team leader, one who leads by both his words and deeds.

You never hear a bad word about Heyward, not from the media, not from his teammates and especially not from the fans.

That third group is hard to please, especially in this day and age of social media where everyone likes to complain about everything all the gosh darn time.

Heyward came along right after the Steelers second championship era–one that included three trips to the Super Bowl and two parades–ended.

Many fans desperately want Heyward, who will turn 35 in May, to win a ring before he retires. If not, they say his career in Pittsburgh will have been wasted.

I’ve been watching Heyward work his magic around town since 2011. I’ve seen the many commercials. I’ve seen the many billboards. I know all that he’s done to make his community a better place.

I gotta tell ya, Cam Heyward’s Steelers’ career doesn’t seem wasted to me.

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