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Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward has been named the 2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year, awarded annually to players who “excel on the field and demonstrate a passion for creating a lasting positive impact beyond the game.”
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Each year, Heyward hosts “Cam’s Kindness Week,” where he helps different factions of the Pittsburgh community throughout the week.
“Pittsburgh has meant so much to my family,” Heyward told Steelers.com when his nomination was announced. “To get to play in this league right next door to where my dad started his football career has been really special. It’s important to me to give back to this community that has blessed my family in so many ways.”
Heyward launched Craig’s Closet in 2018 dedicated to his late father Craig “Ironhead” Heyward. The program provides free dress clothes to young men to help with job interviews, events and more.
He is also a member of the Social Justice Committee and donated $100,000 to Social Justice Funds in 2022. This year, he was a recipient of the Ambassador Daniel M. Rooney Champion of Mentoring award, presented by The Mentoring Partnership.
“For me it’s about trying to impact my community,” Heyward said. “Giving young people a chance and connecting through this platform. I am lucky enough to play for an organization that allows you to do that. There are so many kids that are looking to just partner and people to connect with. We might not have the same backgrounds, but I want to be an advocate, I want to continue to give back. I want to make sure they understand there are opportunities to be had.”
Heyward, who has been nominated for the award for the sixth straight year, received the award at the annual NFL Honors ceremony on Thursday in Las Vegas. He was one of 32 nominees (one per NFL team) unveiled by the NFL on Dec. 5.
The list included stars like Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby.
As the recipient of the award, Heyward received a $250,000 donation to a charity of his choice. The money will go to his Heyward House Foundation, which was founded in honor of his late father, and does several initiatives to help underprivileged communities in Pittsburgh.
The other 31 finalists received a $55,000 donation to their selected charities. All donations were made by the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Heyward has succeeded Dallas Cowboys star quarterback Dak Prescott, who won the honor last year. His charity work through his Faith Fight Finish (FFF) Foundation was highlighted along with his other community efforts.
Along with Prescott, Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson and Atlanta Falcons defensive end Calais Campbell are the other active players to have received the honor, with Heyward now joining that group.
Established in 1970, the Man of the Year award was named after Walter Payton in 1999. The Hall of Fame running back, who starred for the Chicago Bears from 1975-87, won the award in 1977.