PITTSBURGH — Cam Heyward was certain he wasn’t going to win the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.
“I told my mom literally 45 minutes before, ‘Mom, you need to be prepared. We’re not gonna win.’”
Instead, presenter Prince Harry called Heyward’s name, making him the fifth Steeler to ever win the award.b
In a phone call with reporters Friday, Heyward said it still doesn’t quite feel real.
“It’s pretty surreal, to be honest,” he said. “I was not ready for the entire night.”
This was Heyward’s sixth nomination for the award. It’s one of the NFL’s highest honors that recognizes players for a big impact on the field and in the community.
Heyward created his foundation, the Heyward House, in 2014. It aims to help underserved people in Pittsburgh.
The foundation’s main annual event is Cam’s Kindness Week, which focuses on a new organization for seven days. Last year, stops included UPMC Children’s Hospital and Westinghouse football.
Heyward said doing the work in Pittsburgh makes it especially meaningful.
“It’s my hometown. It’s my birthplace. To be doing the work there, it’s cathartic for me because it’s something my dad built before I was born.”
There were a few more surprises in store for Heyward Friday morning.
At the beginning of Friday’s conference call, a man who identified himself as “Joe from Vegas” asked Heyward how it felt to be the latest Steeler to win the award.
“It’s an honor to be among that group,” Heyward said. “I almost don’t feel worthy of it because those guys did so much for the community but held the standard. It’s just unbelievable to be a part of it.”
“Joe from Vegas” revealed he was actually Steelers great and Walter Payton Award winner Joe Greene.
After the two shared a laugh, Heyward commented on Greene’s Steelers legacy.
“You know how much I appreciate you. I loved your game, but I’ve always loved the man that you were and are.”
As part of his award, Heyward will receive $250,000 for a cause of his choosing. He said working with underserved schools is an area of interest.
Just because he’s won the award, doesn’t mean his efforts will stop.
“It was a special night, but we understand we got more work to do.”
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