The Packers might get an opportunity to do the same at the end of the first round in eight weeks with Ohio State's Cameron Heyward.
Heyward, whose father, Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, was a hard-charging running back for the Saints among several teams from 1988 through 1998, is one of the top defensive linemen in this draft.
Defensive end isn't a pressing need for the Packers in the first round, even with Cullen Jenkins almost certainly going to depart whenever there's free agency. In the short term, Heyward would be one of the top players in a defensive end group of 31-year-old starter Ryan Pickett, second-year players Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson, third-year player Jarius Wynn and, perhaps, still-suspended Johnny Jolly.
In the long run, though, Heyward would join Neal and nose tackle B.J. Raji to give the Packers their starting trio for the next several years.
Craig Heyward got his nickname, according to his New York Times obituary, from ramming his head into the stomachs of would-be tacklers as a kid. Cameron Heyward's acorn didn't fall all that far from the tree.
"Using my head," Heyward said when asked which part of his game is most like his father's. "I need to stop. I think we were both guys who loved to pound. He's trying to pound linebackers. I'm trying to go after tackles. We have that toughness, where we always want to use our head. God gave it to us, so why don't we use it?"
The 6-foot-5 Heyward weighed 294 pounds at the Scouting Combine. He didn't work out there as he was recovering from an elbow injury suffered during the Sugar Bowl victory over Arkansas. He played through it but the injury required Tommy John surgery, which he had two months ago. The Packers attended Ohio State's pro day on Friday but Heyward will have a personal pro day on March 30. He certainly fits the mold of their big-budget defensive linemen: high motor, high character, intelligent and well-spoken.
Heyward started as a true freshman and was a four-year starter. He tallied 15.5 sacks in his career. As a senior, he had 3.5 sacks and 13 tackles for losses — including a sack and 3.5 TFLs in a dominating performance against Arkansas' touted DeMarcus Love in the Sugar Bowl. He showed his remarkable athleticism by dropping into coverage against Miami and rumbling 80 yards with an interception.
"As a pass rusher for the next level, I think the things I bring to the table is that I'm a guy that likes to be physical with the pass blockers," Heyward said. "I know I need to refine my techniques and continue to improve. I'm a guy that's going to constantly hustle and just give it all I got."
Just like Matthews, Heyward has spent his life in football. At the Combine, he joked that, as a 6-year-old, he was bigger than Pro Bowl Atlanta running back Jamal Anderson, and he spoke of "hilarious" stories with Baltimore's Tony Siragusa that he couldn't repeat in public.
But also like Matthews, Heyward wants to create his own legacy. In 11 seasons, "Ironhead" — the 24th overall selection by the Saints 23 years ago — rushed for 4,301 yards and 30 touchdowns. Heyward might not be off the board that quickly but he's a first-round talent with high character and a burning desire to blaze his own trail.
"I can't follow it. It's his legacy," Heyward said. "I want to be in the NFL, and he was there. I want to leave a legacy of my own. I don't want to live in his shadow. He was a great player and he's always in my heart. I appreciate everything he's done. But I want to do everything by my own. I'm not asking anybody to give me a second look or anything just because my dad was 'Ironhead'. They all know I have a big head just like him."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.