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Craig Heyward
Running Back
Jersey #(s)
Born September 26, 1966(1966-09-26)
Passaic, New Jersey
Died May 27, 2006 (aged 39)
Career information
Year(s) 19881998
NFL Draft 1988 / Round: 1 / Pick: 24
College Pittsburgh
Professional teams
Career stats
Rushing Yards 4,301
Rushing Avg. 4.2
Touchdowns 30
Stats at
Career highlights and awards

Craig William "Ironhead" Heyward (September 26, 1966 – May 27, 2006) was an American football running back who played for the New Orleans Saints, Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, St. Louis Rams, and Indianapolis Colts in an 11-year National Football League career.



His son Cameron Heyward is a starting defensive end for The Ohio State Buckeyes. Cameron was named a freshman All-American in 2007.

NFL career

He was selected by the Saints in the first round (24th pick overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft out of the University of Pittsburgh, where he ran for 2,950 yards in only three seasons, and declared himself eligible for the 1988 draft after his junior year. At Pitt he also starred in a bowl game for the Panthers, was voted a consensus All-American and was in the Heisman running for 1987. It was at Passaic High School that he gained his oft-used nickname "Ironhead", a reference to his wild-man strength and the fact that he had to wear a size 8¾ hat size.[1] Heyward's obituary in The New York Times gave a different story. It said he got his nickname from street football games in which he would lower his head into the stomach of the tackler; one opponent said it hurt so much that Heyward's head must be made of iron.[2]

Heyward was widely regarded as a nightmare for opposing defenses because he was often as big, and sometimes bigger, than the defenders who had to stop him, and had surprising quickness and agility. One of the NFL's best "big man" running backs in the vein of Earl Campbell, Heyward, at 5'-11" and reportedly between 250-340 pounds (the latter is arguably more accurate) was a punishing runner who was also a devastating blocker and good receiver. Heyward slimmed down to closer to 280.

In the mid-1990s, Heyward showcased his sense of humor in a series of television commercials for Zest body wash, introducing a generation of American men to the modern version of the Luffa that is now a fixture in many showers and bathtubs. The "lather-builder" and Heyward's tough-guy image created a humorous contrast in the advertisement, culminating in a voting campaign that named it the "thingie".

Heyward finished his 11 seasons with 4,301 rushing yards, 177 receptions for 1,559 yards, and 34 touchdowns.

Heyward's son Cameron Heyward is a defensive tackle for Ohio State Buckeyes. Cameron honors his father by etching the words IRON and HEAD on his eye black.

Battle with chordoma

In November 1998, Heyward said that he had blurred vision in his right eye, and was diagnosed with a malignant bone cancer at the base of his skull that was pressing on the optic nerve. The tumor was reportedly a chordoma. After it was partially removed in a 12-hour operation, he underwent 40 rounds of radiation treatments and was later pronounced cancer-free. However, in 2005 the tumor recurred and he died on May 27, 2006 at the age of 39.


  1. ^ Idec, Keith. Rumqstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk1NzEmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTY5NDU5MTEmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk5 "Heyward remembered fondly at memorial service", Herald News, June 9, 2006. Accessed July 12, 2007. "Heyward played 11 NFL seasons for five franchises and was a Heisman Trophy candidate his junior season at Pitt. But it is what he did during his remarkable run at Passaic High School that they remember most fondly."
  2. ^ Litsky, Frank. "Craig Heyward, Who Was N.F.L.'s Ironhead, Is Dead at 39", The New York Times, May 29, 2006. "He would lower his head into tacklers' stomachs, and one opponent said it hurt so much that Heyward's head had to be made of iron. Once, Heyward said, a youngster clubbed him over his size 8¾ head with a billiard cue. The cue broke in half."

External links



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