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First & 10 with Cameron Heyward

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Cameron Heyward was the Steelers first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft last Thursday night. A defensive end out of Ohio State, the 6-5, 290-pound Heyward is the son of the late Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, a former All-American at Pitt and longtime NFL running back. The newest Steeler met with the press over the weekend.

Q: Did you have any idea or did you know for sure that if you were there at 31, that the Steelers would take you?
A: Coach Tomlin and a couple of other guys had told my position coach and my mom that if he’s there, we’ll take him. You don’t want to play into that, but you go down the line and going through the draft and – I wanted to go to Pittsburgh so bad. I saw these teams and I was looking at my phone and say “Don’t ring until the Steelers pick me.” Luckily, it worked out.

It was a funny story because the Jets were picking and I know they had their pick in, and my phone rang and they hadn’t announced that Pittsburgh was on the pick. So I got nervous and my agent came up to me and said “it’s a Pittsburgh number,” and I said “Thank God.”

I’m just very thankful. My grandparents, all my extended family is from here. The chance to come back home and play for this team is a great honor. Best defense and one of the great offenses in our game today. The chance to compete with these guys and a chance for me to get better – to learn from guys like Brett Keisel and Aaron Smith and Ziggy Hood – it’s a great opportunity and I look forward to taking knowledge from those guys, guys that have been here. I’m very honored and it’s a truly humbling process. I’m going to take it for what it’s worth.

Q: Which other teams do you feel showed significant interest in you leading up to the draft?
A:
That’s the thing. A lot of teams showed a lot of interest so it was hard to guage it. I always had a #1 next to the Steelers. It just meant a lot to me and the chance to play for this team just means the world to me.

Q: What kind of player are the Steelers getting?
A:
A team-first kind of player, very accountable and a guy that is constantly going to work hard and contribute as much as he can for his team.

Q: How about the system that you played in at Ohio State? How much do you think that will prepare you for what you’re going to be playing with here with the Steelers?
A:
I think we try to adapt our defense to a Steeler brand type of ball because Coach LeBeau is a well-renowned player at Ohio State.  We try to adapt well. Playing their type of ball, getting after the quarterback, making a lot of plays in the back field, being an attacking defense– That is the type of defense I am accustomed to.

Q: Do you feel like you’re a natural fit– not necessarily because of the way you play– not because of your personality, your character… does that make you a natural fit for the Steelers?
A:
I hope so. The Steelers have always what I wanted. I’ve always said it’s a match made in heaven. My mom came up to me and said my dad was up in heaven working something out. I think my game and the way I was brought up is perfect for it. I understand the landscape and I understand what great tradition goes along with this and what great loyalty. Coming from Ohio State, you deal with that. Just a chance to be part of another great tradition is great.

Q: Can you talk about the significance of your father and the history in this town and your family and how much it means to you from that point of view. What did it mean to them to have you being selected here?
A:
I’m born here. My dad played for the Pitt Panthers and he met my mother in Pittsburgh. All of my family is basically here. Just a chance to play here, it’s like coming home… to your home school, your home town. It’s an unbelievable opportunity; not a lot of people get to come here and do this. To start off my career here and hopefully end it here, it’s a true pleasure. I just look forward to working hard for this great team and bringing my lunch pail every day.

Q: How does it feel to come to a team and town that is very much defense-first?
A:
I love it. The defense, to be a part of this type of defense is one of a kind. You can’t emulate it in a lot of places. The town, they support their team. I’ve always had a Terrible Towel. I look forward to being a part of Steeler Nation.

Q: Obviously you have football in your blood. Was playing in the NFL always the dream or was that something that evolved throughout the course of your life?
A:
I would have to say growing up; I wasn’t going to play football. I didn’t want to. You can ask my mom; I was more ready to just do arts and crafts. Once I got the hang of it and once my coordination started catching up, I loved it. I never wanted to let go of it. As I approached high school and college, the ultimate goal was to get to the NFL. My grandmother was always giving me, for Christmas, Steelers sweatshirts. So she already knew it was going to happen. It was only a matter of time.

Kenneth Torgent is the Steelers beat writer for the Pittsburgh Sports Report. Follow him on twitter at @ktorgent.
 

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