Cause: The Heyward House & Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation
And for Cameron Heyward, family is the reason for his crampons.
When he takes the field this week, Heyward will wear cleats in honor of his late father, Craig ‘Ironhead’ Heyward, an 11-year-old NFL veteran who lost his battle with brain cancer in 2006, when he was only 39, and Cameron was still in high school. It will also pay tribute to all those fighting brain cancer by supporting The Heyward House and the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation, who are fighting for a cure.
Craig Heyward was first diagnosed with cancer in 1998, ending his NFL career. Heyward said his father would always come to his games as he battled the disease, but unfortunately the tumor returned, this time causing a stroke that left him paralyzed on his right side and the challenge even greater. .
“His goal was to get to a point where he could walk for my senior football day,” Heyward said. “Obviously he didn’t. It was hard on all of us. Thanks to that, we always understood that he wasn’t going to feel sorry for himself. He was going to get to a point where he would be able to. He always had goals in mind and cared about the people he loved.
“We had to rally around him, make sure we could be there for him. When he passed away, I was at a basketball tournament. My mom had to muster the strength to tell me. hard to go through a time like this, him being the rock of our family, but it got us all going. “
And Heyward continues to step up. He immersed himself in the Pittsburgh community, doing several things to honor his father. He has a “Pittsburgh Is Stronger Than Cancer” t-shirt to raise funds for research and help families cope with hardship, as well as “Craig’s Closet”, one of the foundation’s main efforts which is a true testimony of his father.
The idea for ‘Craig’s Closet’ started when his father arrived at the University of Pittsburgh as a freshman with a suit, something he was grateful to have at least from one house. single parent with six siblings. There are a lot of young men in the Pittsburgh area right now facing the same type of battle, many who don’t even have that costume they can wear for a job interview, or a college recruiting trip, or n anywhere. ‘Craig’s Closet’ helps provide them with costumes.
“It’s very important to me,” Heyward said. “The idea came from my father. When he grew up he only had one costume. Many of his friends didn’t have any at all. It’s a creative way we’ve come up with to give back to the community and help prepare young men for a job or coming home, to move on in life. You never know how much a costume can help present itself.
“He cared about a lot of people, he cared about the kids. Having a costume sets you up for the next part of your trip.
“We’re just trying to prepare these kids for the future, by helping them in any way. Whether it’s taking your girlfriend out for a nice dinner and you just want to show her how you present yourself. Work and that you understand that you want to look good and present yourself well, this is your opportunity. “
Heyward said when he joined the Steelers he learned how to give back to the players who came before him. Choosing to focus on cancer research was easy for him. But dealing with a parent who has or has had cancer is never easy.
“It’s a tough record to come through in the first round, let alone the second round,” Heyward said. “It’s a burden on a family and it’s nothing I wish on anyone.
“Everyone experiences it differently. I was more reserved, kept to myself after it happened. I had a good support system around me that helped me.”