He also likes the hit television show Glee, and the vibe that came out of Tuesday's bowl media day was that this is a fact to be ridiculed rather than celebrated or embraced. As we were speaking to linebacker Ross Homan about his favorite television shows, the fifth-year senior mentioned that unlike Heyward, he was not a fan of Glee.
Sensing a fun note to write about, I headed to the hallway of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to ask Heyward about the fact. An admitted big fan of the show myself, I posed him the following question about two characters on the show: "Are you upset that Rachel and Finn broke up?"
He pretended to be ultra serious for a moment and agreed, saying, "I was watching my Glee and I love Sue's character and … why are we talking about this right now?"
Once the laughter died down and I explained to him that Homan had ratted him out as a fan of the show, I asked him what sort of benefit it gives him to have a diversion from football.
"When I get out of here I'm just a regular person," he said. "I like to just relax. You won't fine me doing anything crazy. I'll just be in my room watching TV."
But one other media member then pointed out that Heyward did not look the part of someone who would enjoy one of television's most popular shows. That immediately put the senior on the defensive, forcing him to try and explain that his girlfriend likes it and therefore he likes it too. Another media member yelled from the throng that it was a lame excuse before finally one reporter changed the topic and the focus was shifted back to football.
The thing that bothers me the most about this situation is the insinuation that there is something inherently wrong with a big, burly football player admitting that he likes a show about singing and dancing. Talk about judging a book by its cover.
Belatedly, I realize that I am as much at fault here as anyone. Once Homan said that Heyward was a fan of the show, I immediately rushed over to ask him about it because, sure, the thought of a first-team all-Big Ten defensive lineman liking the show seemed humorous to me.
If I had actually been paying attention to the show during the past year, I would have remembered that one of the key lessons taught is one of acceptance. Three members of the glee club on the show are also on the football team, and as result their reputations suffer. It is through their experiences with their fellow singers that they learn there is more to those around them than what their outward appearance would suggest.
I failed to keep this in mind when I brought up the topic to Heyward. In my effort to get any sort of off-beat story on a beat where access to players is tightly controlled, I opened up a player to scorn and ridicule from my fellow media members as well as, now, fans across the city.
After his time with the media was complete, Heyward passed me as he headed down the long hallway in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center toward the locker room. Feeling bad, I told him that I was a Glee fan too and that it was nothing to be ashamed of. Instead of getting a laugh, Heyward half-forced a grin and quickly turned his eyes back forward like someone who had been outed as a Communist at the height of the Cold War.
He is far from the only Buckeye to have a hobby that does not fit the stereotypical jock mold. Senior defensive lineman Dexter Larimore is an accomplished ceramics artist. Junior wide receiver DeVier Posey has shown an interest in learning sign language. Junior defensive lineman Evan Blankenship has a fantastic singing voice. It is clearly possible to have a love of the arts as well as a love of the gridiron.
Maybe we all have a long way to go.