You have an early connection with Pittsburgh, as you were born here. When did you leave?
I was about 8 when I left [Pittsburgh] and just started moving around with my dad [former NFL player Craig “Ironhead” Heyward], moving around quite a lot. We finally settled in Georgia, then I went on to Ohio State and got drafted back here.
What was it like to get the call from the Steelers on draft day?
I still have family members here, so what better place to go to? I love Pittsburgh. Besides the great food spots, the great people, I’m very humbled to be part of an organization like this.
What are some of your favorite food spots in the city?
Downtown, I love Meat & Potatoes, that’s really good. Also, Ten Penny. If you go to the Lawrenceville area, there’s a really good spot called Smoke. [Former Steeler] Baron Batch raves about it, then I went and saw what he was talking about — it was awesome.
You were spotted at Consol Energy Center throughout the Stanley Cup run. Have you always been a Penguins fan?
Since coming back to Pittsburgh, I have. Because when I was younger, I didn’t really understand the game of hockey. When I was in Georgia, we didn’t really have hockey. We had the Atlanta Thrashers, but then they got taken away from there, so when I got back here, I really got involved. [Former Steeler] Brett Keisel took me to my first game and now whenever I have family, I’m like, ‘Let’s see if there’s a Pens game, let’s see if we can go.’ I took my brother last time and he was just like, ‘Wow, this is awesome.’ [Consol] is nuts. I caught a puck, too.
Do you have a highlight from this past season?
The overtime goal by [Conor] Sheary [in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final] was awesome. How clutch is that? I went to the game against the Lightning, and they had lost Game 5, I think, at home in overtime. It was the same exact scenario. So when we came back here, and it was against San Jose, I was like, ‘Oh, gosh, is it going to happen again?’ But it was a great play. The way they blocked the goalie and then got the shot like that was awesome.
How has your early connection with the city impacted your current relationship to it?
I understand how big a part the Steelers play in our community. Being from here — my grandparents are educators, my mom is from here — we always try to give back to the community. That really affects the way I play. You understand that Pittsburgh is a blue-collar town, a hard-hat city when it comes to going to work every day, so I just try to apply that to my everyday life.
What role does your organization, the Heyward House Foundation, play in that?
I would first say it’s important because it gives back to the kids. Growing up and having role models in my life was huge. I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today. Everybody needs somebody to look up to, but it also provides kids with needs things they don’t have. I work especially with the Boys & Girls Clubs. Those are two programs that keep kids off the streets and also gives kids needs they’re not receiving at home. You need that. I’m just very honored to be a part of it.
You and your wife recently had a son. How has that impacted your outlook on the Heyward House Foundation as well as on football?
As a football player, you always want to be a role model, but as a father, you want to be a role model first. I want my son to know that I care about our community and I care about him. I want to leave a legacy like my dad left me.
What’s the best piece of parenting advice you’ve received from a teammate?
Patience. From Day 1, you have to have patience. I was very impatient growing up. My mom always stressed patience to me, and now I see why.
What’s the worst piece of advice?
See, I don’t think there’s been a worst piece of advice. If you watch too many movies about parenting, you start to believe all the hype. But it’s so different when it’s real life. In the movie, it shuts off after an hour and a half, two hours. You’re with a baby non-stop, and it’s a full-time job. I really appreciate my wife for it.
As a former Buckeye, what was your reaction to the numerous Ohio State players taken in the 2016 draft?
I was ecstatic. For those guys to get drafted so high speaks volumes about the program, the legacy I left — just kidding. … Between these past two drafts, we’ve had a lot of Ohio State guys drafted. I’m just excited for what they’re going to do in the future.
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