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Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward named Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year


Fri, Feb 9th 2024 10:20 am

National Football League Press Release

The NFL announced Thursday that Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Tackle Cameron Heyward was selected as the 2023 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. The award, presented by Nationwide, is the league's most prestigious honor and acknowledges NFL players who excel on the field and demonstrate a passion for creating a lasting positive impact beyond the game.

First established in 1970, the national award was renamed in 1999 after the late Hall of Fame Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton.

The announcement was made during “NFL Honors,” the League's annual two-hour primetime awards special held that aired nationally on CBS.

Prior to the kickoff of Super Bowl LVIII, all 32 Man of the Year nominees, representing each NFL club, will be recognized for their contributions to the game and their communities. The Man of the Year pregame moment will also include the 2022 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, handing the award to Heyward as he is introduced as the 2023 recipient.

“Cameron Heyward's character and contributions to his community are recognized by his teammates, the community, and greater NFL family," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “As a Pittsburgh native and a Steeler, he has made a unique contribution to his hometown through his dedication to literacy, mentorship and social justice. His leadership through initiatives such as The Heyward House Foundation, “Suiting Up for Success,” and the Voices of Hope Scholarship have provided those in need crucial support in a time of need. We are extremely proud to name Cameron Heyward as our 2023 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year."

Nationwide Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Ramon Jones said, “Nationwide is thrilled to congratulate Cameron Heyward on being named the 2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year. As a company that is committed to protecting, serving and strengthening communities, we're honored to celebrate Cameron Heyward's dedication to improve the lives of others during our 10th year as presenting sponsor of this prestigious award."

Over his 13 NFL seasons, Cameron Heyward has become a leading voice in the locker room and is known for producing some of the best defensive line plays in the league. His 78.5 career sacks are the most by a Steelers defensive lineman since 1982, third-most by an active NFL defensive tackle and in Steelers franchise history. In the nine seasons that he's served as defensive captain, his 116 tackles for loss and 177 quarterback hits both rank third among active defensive linemen. Heyward's personal on-field accolades include six Pro Bowls, three Associated Press First Team All-Pros, three Pro Football Focus First Team All-Pro titles, and two Pro Football Writers of America All-NFL nods among others. Additionally, Heyward is the only the second Steelers' interior defensive linemen (DT-NT) to be voted Associated Press First-Team All-Pro more than once.

Growing up with his mother and his three brothers after the death of his father, Heyward was exposed to struggles children and parents of a single parent household face. Now, as a son, brother, husband and father, Heyward greatly cherishes family and instills in the value of service in hopes to build a lasting legacy. Because of this, he founded The Heyward House Foundation in 2014 dedicated to tackling hunger, fighting cancer, supporting literacy, and championing students and teachers through various initiatives.

As both of Heyward's late grandparents were long-time educators in Pittsburgh Public Schools, Heyward launched the Rufus and Judy Jordan Literacy Project as a branch of the Heyward House Foundation in 2020. Through the project, Heyward worked to install Little Free Libraries for underserved communities and provided over 9,300 nutritious meals for kids to take home over the weekend.

In honor of his father who died of brain cancer and was an advocate for education, Heyward initiated a collaboration with The Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation raising $40,000 in scholarships to aid brain tumor patients and families pursuing post-secondary education. 

As a pillar on the field and in Pittsburgh and a six-time Steelers Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee, Heyward has led outreach projects throughout the 2023-24 season resulting in a greater impact for the community. After an injury that sidelined him for six games this season, Heyward invited high school athletes, nominated by their coaches and who also suffered injuries, to the Steelers' practice facility. The invited students watched practice, met the team, and engaged in discussions about overcoming adversity.

Heyward's passion to give back remained prevalent through his second annual “Cam's Kindness Week,” a series of events dedicated to impacting the lives of children, students, health care providers and athletes. “Cam's Kindness Week” began at a local children's hospital where he recorded a book reading for patients to watch, hosted a kindness week kickoff party and purchased a meal for all staff, health care workers and families of patients. Throughout the week, he spoke to students affected by the social justice system, children struggling with the loss of a loved one, and high school student athletes about the importance of working to achieve their goals.

Heyward culminated “Cam's Kindness Week” by opening the newest location of Craig's Closet, a facility founded in 2018 that provides young men with professional attire for job interviews and internships. To date, Craig's Closet has 16 locations throughout Pittsburgh and has serviced over 700 young men through Heyward's “Suiting Up for Success” mentorship program.

Heyward will receive a donation of $250,000, which will go to a charity of his choice. Each nominee will receive up to $55,000. All donations are made possibly by the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.

To learn more about all 32 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominees, visit www.NFL.com/ManOfTheYear.

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