After coming up short five previous times, Steelers defensive tackle Cam Heyward finally won the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award at NFL Honors on Thursday night, per Aaron Wilson of KPRC-TV.
Heyward joins Franco Harris (1976), Joe Greene (1979), Lynn Swann (1981) and Jerome Bettis (2001) as the only Steelers players to receive the prestigious honor. The honor is bestowed annually to a player who not only excels on the field, but also with their service in their community.
“Sixth times … this has gotta be the last time,” Heyward said in a red carpet interview before the ceremony.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 9, 2024
Heyward has been a boon for the Pittsburgh community throughout his career, giving an helping hand to several organizations and causes.
Through the Heyward House, Heyward has raised money and awareness for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and more throughout the year. Part of it is the event Cam’s Kindness Week, which occurred at various locations throughout the city in order to carry out different acts of kindness in the Pittsburgh community. Not only does Heyward give back through his foundation The Heyward House, but he also started the Rufus and Judy Jordan Literacy Program in 2020, which helps promote reading in underserved communities. He also works with the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation, Blessings in a Backpack, the Boys and Girls Club, the Highmark Caring Place and many other charitable organizations.
In 2018, Heyward started the Craig’s Closet program in honor of his late father, Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, that provides high school boys in the Pittsburgh area with free dress clothes for interviews, internships, banquets, and more. The idea came from his dad only having one suit growing up, while a lot of his friends didn’t have suits at all.
“Pittsburgh has meant so much to my family,” Heyward said to Steelers.com in December. “To get to play in this league right next door to where my dad started his football career has been really special. It’s important to me to give back to this community that has blessed my family in so many ways.”
Longtime NFL writer Peter King asked Heyward in a December interview, “Why did you become a person who wanted to give to so many?” Heyward responded, “Because I was one of those people who received so much from so, so many other people. When my dad passed away, it was my mom stepping up, the coaches in my life stepping up, the teachers, my friends. So if I don’t go out and do the same for others now, I feel like I’m doing everyone an injustice.”
Cam Heyward is also a member of the Steelers Social Justice Committee. The Steelers announced a total of $489,250 in donations, from both the organization and individual players, to their Social Justice Fund Initiative in 2023. Since its inception in 2018, the team and its players have donated total of $2,339,970.
“It makes me proud to know how much we’ve been able to accomplish as a team through the Social Justice Fund over the past few years,” Heyward said. “I think as a group, we understand that being a Steeler means commitment to Pittsburghers both on and off the field.”
Each team nominates one player for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, and a panel of judges, which includes previous winners, chooses the overall winner. The Man of the Year receives a $250,000 donation in his name to a charity of his choice. The other finalists get $50,000 donations. The winner also gets to wear a special jersey patch for the rest of his career.