Tuesday, May 4, 2010

HEYWARD: BEING A CAPTAIN IS A GOAL FOR THE UPCOMING SEASON


COLUMBUS — Ohio State senior defensive lineman Cameron Heyward is a man amongst boys on the collegiate gridiron.

The 6-foot-5, 288-pound native of Georgia — and son of former NFL running back Craig "Ironhead" Heyward — nearly always has his way on the football field, tossing aside offensive tackles as if they were made of feathers and tissue paper.

Heyward, who many scouts felt would have been a first round selection in last month's NFL draft, decided in January to pass on the riches — at least for now — so he could finish out his career at Ohio State with the group of teammates he arrived in Columbus with three years ago.

"You know, I love playing with these guys right here," Heyward said to me on the field directly following last January's Rose Bowl victory over Oregon. "I would love playing another year. Being able to finish with my class would mean the world to me."

With Heyward returning for his senior season, the big man will now have a huge responsibility that he hasn't had to deal with during his career in Columbus — being a leader. More importantly, a vocal leader.

For such a quiet and laid-back person such as Heyward that role may take some getting used to.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said that Heyward's leadership on the field will be just as important as sacking quarterbacks and punishing runners. And the coach expects him to deliver.

"Cameron is a great player, a great kid," Tressel said. "He is going to be a great leader for this team. Obviously, we will count on him a lot on the field. He has a good knack of bringing other people along. It's just the type of person he is. He is a real inclusive guy.

"He knows we lost a great deal of personnel on the defensive front to graduation, plus losing Thaddeus Gibson early. (Heyward) is at the front of the room and the line encouraging the guys.

"His performance will be crucial for us and his leadership will be just as important."

Heyward's other coaches are expecting much of the same.

"Cam has done a good job playing and working hard," OSU defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said. "Now he has to step up and be a leader. Coach Tressel expects that."

Heyward, who led the team in sacks (6.5) and the defensive line in tackles (46) last season, is ready for the challenge and even admitted that he would like to become a captain his final year.

"That's a goal of mine," Heyward said. "I want to be a captain."

I'm sure his teammates will oblige him.