Craig "Ironhead" Heyward died on Saturday under hospice care, victimized by an aggressive, recurring brain tumor. He was 39 years old.
When he was diagnosed with a malignant tumor behind his eye in 1998 while playing for the Colts, Heyward retired and had surgery. That was followed by 40 radiation treatments over an eight-week stretch. But he was given a clean bill of health in regards to the cancer.
But gradually the tumor returned, causing blindness in one eye, some hearing loss and mobility problems that put him in a wheelchair by mid-March of this year. Heyward agreed to more surgery in hopes of saving his life, as the tumor was putting pressure on his brain. But in the end, the tumor still took its enormous toll.
Heyward spent 11 seasons in the NFL after being drafted in the first round out of the University of Pittsburgh by the New Orleans Saints. He also played for the Bears, Falcons, Rams and Colts. He played in just four games in Indianapolis before he had to leave the team to have his surgery back in 1998.
Over the course of his career, he rushed for 4,301 yards and posted a 4.2 yards per carry average. He scored 30 rushing touchdowns and four more off of receptions. He caught a total of 177 passes for 1,559 yards.
Heyward is survived by four sons, including one, Cameron, who is considered to be one of the nation's top high school defensive line recruits this year.
Craig "Ironhead" Heyward Dies at age 39
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