After Peyton Manning’s moving retirement speech on Monday, scores of NFL players posted farewell messages on social media. One of the best messages came from Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward, whose father Craig “Ironhead” Heyward was a teammate of Manning’s with the Colts in Manning’s rookie year.
Heyward posted a note to Manning telling him how his late father had spoken highly of the young quarterback he played with in Indianapolis.
“To know my dad had the opportunity to play with you is very humbling,” Heyward wrote. “I can recall my dad and mom telling me, ‘Peyton is going to be great.'”
Manning approached Heyward after the Broncos beat the Steelers in this year’s playoffs and told him it was meaningful to share a field with two generations of Heywards. Manning said that early in his career, when he played against Bruce Matthews, it meant a lot to him that Matthews approached Peyton to talk about having played with Archie Manning.
“I told Cameron, ‘Hey, you’re a great player.’ And then it dawned on me. So I said: ‘I played with your dad. I played with Ironhead.’ How about that deal? When Bruce Matthews told me he played with my dad all those years ago, I thought there was no way I’d ever be able to tell anybody the same thing. But isn’t that something? It’s come full circle,” Manning told the Denver Post after that game.
In his letter to Manning, Heyward said that exchange meant a lot to him.
“The fact that you took time after you had just beat us in the playoffs to remind me that you played with my dad just spoke volumes to me,” Heyward wrote. “Thank you for being a role model and also how to be a class act on and off the field.”