Spotlight Shines On Reluctant Heyward

Ohio State junior defensive lineman Cameron Heyward has made plenty of headlines for his play on the field for the Buckeyes, but off the field the imposing figure remains quiet and somewhat guarded. BuckeyeSports.com takes a closer look at the reigning Big Ten defensive player of the week.

Doug Worthington's voice would seem perfectly at home with Cameron Heyward.

Worthington, a senior defensive lineman who speaks in a booming voice that would make him a perfect bass in a church choir, is not the type of player reporters have to inch their recorders closer to in order to pick up his voice. Frequently, his speech can overwhelm conversations with other players situated in his vicinity.

Heyward, a junior lineman, plays for Ohio State with the same sort of tenacity. But if you ask him a question, you had better have your ears peeled for the answer.

"I hate talking," said Heyward, the reigning Big Ten defensive player of the week after an 11-tackle performance in a road victory against Penn State. As a result of bringing home that honor, the Georgia native was the defensive spokesperson at head coach Jim Tressel's weekly press luncheon Tuesday afternoon.

Needless to say, he was thrilled.

"I just want to play," he said. "I don't really like answering all these questions. I just like playing football."

Asked if he was comfortable being in the spotlight, Heyward said, "Not at all. I think our whole defense is playing well. I think we're flying to the ball and making plays."

The statement sums up a lot about what kind of player and person the 6-6, 287-pound Heyward is. The son of the late NFL great "Ironhead" Heyward, Cameron decided to leave home and sign with the Buckeyes out of high school because both he and his mother felt the program was the best fit for him.

Heyward broke into the starting lineup as a true freshman and has been a mainstay there since his sophomore season. Along the way, he has rotated in at both defensive end and tackle and said he feels equally adept at each spot.

He is on pace to increase his tackle total for the third consecutive season, but despite his success Heyward remains a humble member of the team's defense.

It took his girlfriend, a member of the OSU women's volleyball team, to pump him up before making his media appearance.

"My girlfriend has been talking about how I've been defensive player of the week, but I'm trying to focus on Iowa right now," he said.

According to senior lineman Lawrence Wilson, Heyward has only recently become more vocal.

"When I first got to know him he was quiet," the senior said. "He just listened. We told him to do something and he'll do it. You can really see (a change) this year. He's really coming out and being a lot more vocal."

Wilson and Heyward have struck up a friendship that helps them cope with the pregame emotions that come with game day. When teammates are jumping up and down and firing each other up, the two linemen stay out of the action.

Each has good cause. Wilson has missed most of the previous two seasons with serious injuries, while Heyward injured his ankles during fall camp and during the team's loss to Purdue.

"We always joke around about who's injured a lot," Heyward said. "I like to think I have the worst ankles. I used to not wear anything but now I have to wear my ankle braces or I'm screwed.

"We don't like to get in the circle because we're afraid we'll get stepped on or something."

A sense of humor is there, residing deep within Heyward's imposing frame. Asked what college course has been the most intellectually challenging, he responded, "Right now, public speaking." An accomplished basketball player in high school who toured the AAU circuit, he said he enjoyed the sport more because it involved wearing fewer pads.

However, the junior might have to take a big step into a larger world in the near future. With three total games remaining in the 2009 season, Heyward figures to be one junior who will test the waters of next year's NFL draft.

Heyward said that his mind is on returning for his senior season at OSU, although head coach Jim Tressel encourages players who are guaranteed first-round picks to take the leap to the league.

"I've already thought I'm coming back for next year," he said. "I want to help the team as much as I can because they've given so much to me. I think you can't even think about it during the season. You've got so much football to look forward to."

As a freshman, Heyward said he noticed NFL scouts at practice checking on the likes of James Laurinaitis and Malcolm Jenkins. He said he has not noticed them around this year, but said if they have been at practice he has been too focused on his work to pay them any mind.

Asked what he would do if he was projected as a top-10 pick, Heyward did not waver. Asked if that would make it a hard decision, he replied, "No. There's a lot of guys on this team I love and I want to send them out right. I can't think about that right now. I've got to send these seniors out right first."

Told you he sounds selfless.


Buckeye Sports Top Stories