Pittsburgh Steelers’ defensive lineman Cam Heyward was honored Thursday night, named the 2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year. While the moment was special enough, a six-time nominee who has done countless good for his community, the special moments didn’t end there.
As tweeted out by Nationwide Sunday morning, former Steelers RB Jerome Bettis, winner of the award in 2001, presented Heyward with the first jersey to have Heyward’s name and the WPMOY patch affixed.
“This is a special gift I want to give you,” Bettis told Heyward. “We talked about a little earlier wanting to steal a jersey. And on behalf of Nationwide, I wanted to give you the first jersey that will bear the marks of Man of the Year with your number on it.”
Clearly caught off guard by the announcement, Heyward took a moment to appreciate the jersey and collect his thoughts.
“Man, that’s sweet,” he said. “It looks like it belongs. Man, you think about the men that won this award. You gotta live up to that. I know I’ve got work to do and I’m going to continue to keep doing it. But this is special.”
Take a look at the moment.
Traditionally, the previous year’s winner of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award wears a patch the following season. Pittsburgh generally hasn’t allowed their players to win patches like that and Heyward told reporters on a Thursday conference call he was unsure if the Steelers would let him.
But given the weight of the award, it’s reasonable to believe the Steelers will make an exception. Bettis is the second ex-Steeler to offer special congratulations to Heyward, joining Joe Greene, who called Heyward shortly after NFL Honors.
Heyward became the fifth Steeler in history to be named Man of the Year. He joins a Hall of Fame group of players and people: RB Franco Harris, DT Joe Greene, WR Lynn Swann, and Jerome Bettis, the organization’s most recent winner until Heyward.
As he’s repeated since the honor, Heyward doesn’t intend on stopping all the work he does in and for the Pittsburgh community. His Heyward House Foundation continues to expand its existing programs while creating new ones and his “Cam’s Kindness Week” is expected to continue into its third year.