Craig Heyward
No. 33, 34, 45     
Running back
Personal information
Date of birth: (1966-09-26)September 26, 1966
Place of birth: Passaic, New Jersey
Date of death: May 27, 2006(2006-05-27) (aged 39)
High School: Passaic (NJ)
Career information
College: Pittsburgh
NFL Draft: 1988 / Round: 1 / Pick: 24
Debuted in 1988 for the [[{{{debutteam}}}]]
Last played in 1998 for the [[{{{finalteam}}}]]
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Rushing Yards     4,301
Rushing Avg.     4.2
Touchdowns     30
Stats at

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.

NFL careerEdit

He was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the first round (24th pick overall) of the 1988 NFL Draft out of the University of Pittsburgh, Heyward's 3,086 career rushing yards rank third all-time at Pitt. in only three seasons. He declared himself eligible for the 1988 draft after his junior year. In 1987 at Pitt Heyward rushed for 1,791 yards[1] to earn consensus All-America honors and finish fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting.[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 was a punishing runner who was also a devastating blocker and good receiver. Heyward slimmed down to closer to 280.[citation needed]

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 "thingy".


Note: G = Games played; Att = Rushing attempts; Yds = Rushing yards; Avg = Average yards per carry; Long = Longest rush; Rush TD = Rushing touchdowns; Rec = Receptions; Yds = Receiving yards; Avg = Average yards per reception; Long = Longest reception; Rec TD = Receiving touchdowns

Year Team GP Att Yds Avg Long Rush TD Rec Yds Avg Long Rec TD
1988New Orleans Saints11743554.8731131058.1180
1989New Orleans Saints16491833.715113695.3120
1990New Orleans saints161295994.6474181216.7120
1991New Orleans Saints7762603.41544348.5221
1992New Orleans Saints161044164.0233191598.4210
1993Chicago Bears16682063.0110161328.3200
1994Atlanta Falcons161837794.31773233510.5341
1995Atlanta Falcons1623610834.6316373509.5252
1996Atlanta Falcons15723214.53431616810.5250
1997St. Louis Rams1634842.5818779.6250
1998Indianapolis Colts46152.580199.090
Career Totals 149103143014.2733017715598.8344
  • Stats that are highlighted show career high

Battle with CancerEdit

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.



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 hat size of 8¾.[3] 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.[4]


His son Cameron Heyward plays defensive end for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played for the Ohio State Buckeyes, where he was named a freshman All-American in 2007 and honoured as a team captain. Cameron was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers (31st pick overall) in the 2011 NFL Draft. Cameron etches the words IRON HEAD on his eye black as a tribute to his father.

His oldest son Craig Heyward Jr. was a walk-on at Middle Tennessee State, where he played primarily on special teams. He is currently signed to the Trenton Steel of the SIFL where he is a running back. His son Corey Heyward graduated from Peachtree Ridge High School and will be playing basketball for Georgia Tech.


  3. 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."
  4. 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."

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