OSU's Heyward wants to make senior year greatest yet

CHICAGO -- Cameron Heyward wants to be great.

The Peachtree Ridge grad doesn't need to be in an NFL training camp this month to achieve that goal.

The 6-foot-5, 288-pound defensive lineman could have been a high-round draft pick in this past spring's NFL draft. Instead, he will don the scarlet and gray when the Ohio State football team hits the field for the season's first practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Following the path paved by former OSU teammates Malcolm Jenkins and James Laurinaitis, Heyward shunned the temptation to skip his senior year with the Buckeyes for the glitz, glamour and fat paycheck of professional football.

"The NFL can wait," Heyward said. "There are no guarantees in the NFL."

He wanted other guarantees.

The guarantee of spending another year with friendships he has forged in Columbus. The guarantee of being a leader on a team that contends for a sixth straight Big Ten Championship. The guarantee of being a key force in a team that hopes to contend for a BCS national championship.

Those reasons, among others, were more than enough for Heyward to put pro football off for another year.

"We have meetings (with Coach Jim Tressel) in the spring," Heyward said. "He was talking about his father, who was a great coach. He made it clear to me when he said, 'My dad has a road named after him. Well, I want a highway.'"

Heyward feels his road to greatness needs to be paved with another year in Columbus. He was sixth on the team in tackles last year with 46, adding in 10 tackles for loss and a team-leading 61/2 sacks.

Those numbers, his size, his speed and his pedigree -- being the son of former NFL running back Craig "Ironhead" Heyward -- would have fit in nicely in the NFL draft had he chosen that path.

"If you're destined to be there, you'll be there," Heyward said. "It just wasn't my time yet."

The decision made Tressel smile, not just because he would be welcoming back his best defensive lineman from a year ago.

"Cameron made a great statement to his teammates," Tressel said, "He said, 'Hey, I wanna be with you guys.' People asked him why he was coming back and he said, 'Because I want to be with those guys.'

"That's huge."

So is his presence on a defensive line that lost Lawrence Wilson, Doug Worthington, Thaddeus Gibson, Todd Denlinger and Robert Rose. He is slated to line up at defensive end opposite Nathan Williams and next to tackles Dexter Larimore and John Simon.