The award recognizes a player’s non-profit service off the field as well as their outstanding performance in the game. As a seven-time captain of the defensive team, Heyward has become the leading voice in a locker room. The 11-year-old veteran was selected for four pro bowls and was named first-team all-pro twice.
It underscores the NFL values of respect, integrity, resilience and responsibility towards the team. Heyward, who will have a special sticker on his helmet for the remainder of the season, naming him a nominee for the award, excels in all of these areas.
“It’s really important to give something back,” said Heyward. “Lots of people out there need our help. I will always give something back. I always want to make sure I can make people succeed, and this gives me the opportunity to do so.”
And what’s special about Heyward is that through his foundation, The Heyward House, over the years he has been able to spread love and give back to countless organizations for help and guidance.
“I had great role models growing up,” said Heyward. “My parents taught me to give back. My parents really taught me to give back. There are so many ways to give back. Don’t put yourself in a group because there are so many people who need our help.”
Heyward embodies the city of Pittsburgh, and that’s no surprise. His grandparents were born and raised in the city. His father played at the University of Pittsburgh, where the late Craig ‘Ironhead’ Heyward was a legend. And Heyward himself and his mother Charlotte were born in Pittsburgh and returned to his hometown when he was drafted by the Steelers in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Pittsburgh is in his heart and that’s why he’s immersed in the community, giving back and never saying no when it comes to helping others. He founded The Heyward House in 2015 and used his platform, voice and big heart to reach so many aspects of the community through various programs.
He started the foundation with a birthday party, not for himself but for children who are looked after by local agencies and who often do not have the opportunity to celebrate their own birthday. He made the birthday party a regular occurrence, celebrating with the kids an afternoon of fun and games, food and gifts to uplift them and show them how special they are.
Heyward grew up facing the challenges of severe asthma and required numerous hospital stays which resulted in some bottlenecks. His health problems made it almost impossible to ever play sport, let alone one as physically demanding as soccer. But despite the doubts others had about his future, he didn’t let that stop him. His own challenges led him to reach out to children with asthma so that they can achieve their dreams too.
Heyward’s work doesn’t stop there. Not even close.
Heyward honored his grandparents when he started the Rufus and Judy Jordan Literacy Program. As part of the program, starting in 2020, The Heyward House has installed Little Free Libraries to help and continue to serve underserved communities in the Pittsburgh area. Heyward made sure the libraries were well stocked and supplied books of all kinds, including those dealing with social justice, racial equality, financial literacy, and life skills. Rufus Jordan, known as “Pup Pup” by his grandchildren, passed away in June 2020, which inspired Heyward to start the program. Rufus loved reading and education, was a teacher at Carrick High School and then founder and vice president of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, a position he held for over 35 years. Judy was a teacher at Pittsburgh Public Schools for over 30 years before she retired.
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in March 2020, Heyward knew he had to step up his game and work immediately to support frontline workers with food and PPE equipment. He also used his voice and platform to write a comment to the Pittsburgh community, telling his story of the fight against asthma and encouraging people to wear masks to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19 to make sure the weakest are as safe as possible.
Given the long-term implications of the pandemic, Heyward has partnered with the Pittsburgh Foundation to raise funds for organizations that provide essentials for the Pittsburgh communities, many difficult. He worked with the Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania to provide 250 buckets of toiletries, groceries, and cleaning supplies, and started a campaign to raise funds for the Boys and Girls Club to buy an additional 114 buckets for children.
“Everyone knows what he’s doing in the field. What he does outside of the field is more important. It’s not getting enough attention, ”said Charlotte Heyward, his mother and manager of The Heyward House. “He doesn’t say no. Every now and then I have a suggestion and he’ll say mom, slow down. He just wants to give back as much as I do. It’s a blessing to be where he was born, here in Pittsburgh, where I was born, and to be able to give back to the community.
“He’s a better man than a soccer player. He’s a better husband, father, brother, son, friend than a soccer player. I can’t say how proud I am of him as a person.” “
Heyward also works with the Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation’s Voices of Hope Scholarship Awards, which are designed to offer brain cancer patients or family members of those diagnosed with a brain tumor the opportunity to complete post-secondary education at an accredited college, university, or technical school. His efforts were inspired by father Craig ‘Ironhead’ Heyward, who died of a brain tumor in 2006.
He is also committed to Blessings in a Backpack, helping children tackle food insecurity by providing properly nourished backpacks to take with you on non-school lunch weekends and Urban Pathways to meet school needs .
That year, Heyward began working with The Queen’s Gambit in Pittsburgh, an organization founded in 2014 by a local high school freshman that has since grown into a national organization to teach and offer quality chess programs to Pittsburgh youth. The organization uses education and extracurricular enrichment as a catalyst for change and social power for good in the city.
“Whether it’s an immediate need or, over time, becomes something that can help, I want to help,” Heyward said. “We do backpack tours, shoe tours, Craig’s Closet, where we give young men clothes they need for college interviews and proms have a big birthday party to celebrate. We just started with Queens Gambit which is great. We work with them to teach chess to children in the Pittsburgh area. It’s just great to see young people taking such initiative.
“We cover different avenues, be it the Boys and Girls Club or other organizations, we’re just trying to make sure we’re helping a lot of people. We can make a difference, whether in the hospital or outside by your side. We try to offer that. “
Each year, in partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, he hosts an annual Thanksgiving food distribution that supports over 200 families annually.
“It is very humbling to know that you are doing something that is very necessary,” said Heyward. “It also makes the day sweeter for them to spend time with people and even interact for a few minutes, while at the same time providing the necessary food. It means a lot to know how many people you can influence.
“I have been very lucky all my life and I am very blessed. To see people in trouble, I am very grateful that I can help many people.”
In our ever-changing world where a strong voice is needed, Heyward served as a member of the Steelers Social Justice Committee. He has helped lead the fight against the increasing gun violence in Pittsburgh and assisted organizations focused on stopping the violence.
He has also been a sponsor of Homewood Children’s Village, an organization that provides hope and opportunity by promoting everything from education to providing food in the toughest times to those in an area hoping often hard to find is. Heyward has made generous donations to the organization through the Steelers Social Justice Grant Fund, with the Steelers doubling his donation to further influence children.
“Seeing how the kids have resources, seeing how the adults use the space is a great place,” Heyward said. “It’s unique in that it serves so many different people. It’s a permanent thing that the community can benefit from. In everything that goes on, we talk about giving back to our communities, serving our communities beyond belief.
“Since I’m from Pittsburgh, my grandparents don’t live too far from there, it’s special to see what they’re doing firsthand. Coach (Mike) Tomlin and I went there and saw how grateful they were. That I hope.” helps them to expand their foundations. “
Help Heyward’s Foundation as part of the social challenge: Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide’s 7th Annual Charity Challenge, a social media campaign to support and promote team candidates. Fans can vote on Twitter using #WPMOYChallenge followed by their favorite candidate’s last name #WPMOYChallenge Heyward or #WPMOYChallenge @CamHeyward. The player, whose unique hashtag is most frequently used between December 7th and January 17th, will receive a donation of $ 25,000 to a charity of their choice, while the runner-up and third-place finishers will receive $ 10,000 and $ 5,000, respectively Donations received, courtesy of Nationwide. For hashtag information and official rules, visit nfl.com/manoftheyear.
In addition, there are some changes this year:
Double Votes – On January 4th and 5th, the votes count double.
Race to 1M – The first player to reach a million votes wins $ 10,000 for their charity. This bonus donation is independent of those given to the top three winners.
About the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award: All 32 team winners will be highlighted as nominees and recognized for their important work on the weekend before the Super Bowl LVI. The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year 2021 will be announced during the NFL Honors, a primetime awards special that will air on ABC the Thursday before the Super Bowl LVI. All 32 nominees will receive up to $ 40,000 on their behalf to a charity of their choice. The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award winner will receive a donation of $ 250,000 to a charity of their choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.