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The Legacy of a New Jersey Athlete: The Heyward Family

From the time Cameron Heyward was a kid everyone knew that he was going to be really big; he stood head and shoulders above his peers. No one would have doubted either that he would be a “beast” on the football field.

By: Janet Thompson Hilliman

From the time Cameron Heyward was a kid everyone knew that he was going to be really big; he stood head and shoulders above his peers.  No one would have doubted either that he would be a “beast” on the football field.  But then again this should be no secret because football runs deep in his veins.  Talk about living the legacy of a father who was one of the great ones that played the game of football that hails from the Garden State.

The Buck Eye State Defensive End who stands at 6’ 6” and weighs 287 lbs is not directly a product of New Jersey but indirectly he is as his roots run deep in Passaic, NJ.  His name somewhat helps to start a conversation.  He is the son of Craig “Iron Head” Heyward.  Craig played for the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, St Louis Rams and the Indianapolis Colts over an 11year period in the NFL.  Craig was also the 24th picked in the 1988 draft when his collegiate career ended at the University of Pittsburgh where he ran for 2950 yards.  He was a Heisman contender as well and an All American.

But it all started for Cameron’s dad at Passaic High School where he got the nickname “Iron Head.”  This was where his opponents would first begin to feel the wrath of his head.  Craig stood 5’ 11” tall and weighed between 265-280 lbs.  He was a very fast big man at his Running Back position.  He brought a lot of toughness to the game and was considered a “human wrecking ball.”  Now if anyone remembers “Iron” playing back in the day, his son plays the game with the same bull dog tenacity as his father did.  Although they do not play the same position, Cameron usually comes of the line like a man possessed, the same way his father ran the ball.  As a matter of fact,  his father used his size to his advantage and was a great blocker when he had to in the NFL.

While playing with the Indianapolis Colts which turned out to be his last season, Craig’s doctors found a cancerous tumor that caused his vision to be blurred.  He had to walk away from the game that he loved.  He ended up losing his battle with the dreaded disease in 2006.  Although he was intimidating on the football field and sometimes off others may attest, to those who knew him well would say that he was a great guy, hilarious and does have a warmth about him underneath that tough exterior.

Cameron who was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week a while back is a very modest young man whose biggest regret is that, his father never got a chance to watch him play college football.  However his dad did get a chance to see his high school games when he transferred to a school close to home in Georgia so his father could come to his games when he was ill.  Now this Buck Eye’s big man will enter the draft as a highly ranked player and we wish him well.

There is also another Heyward, Craig Heyward Jr that is, Cameron’s eldest brother who was a walk on at Mid Tennessee State University where he was a special teams player. When CJ’s collegiate career ended he went off to training camp at one of his father’s former team, the New Orleans Saints.  He however did not make it out of training camp but all was not lost.  The 6’, 234 lbs running back was picked up by New Jersey’s own Trenton Steel in the SIFL (South Indoor Football League.)  He was described by the team’s coach as a “great downhill runner and a great addition to their team.”

Craig Sr I am sure is smiling down on his boys and probably saying “go ‘em sons.”  We are also cheering with him.  Craig Jr is New Jersey’s own born and bred and we wish him well in his pursuits.  While we cannot claim Cameron as our own, we can claim his as a byproduct of one of New Jersey’s own.  The gene pool that originated from Passaic, NJ as I am sure the town stands behind the name and the legacy.

(RIP Craig “Iron Head” Heyward)

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