COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio State senior defensive lineman Cameron Heyward's mother and girlfriend have a lot to be thankful for.
That's because this season being named to the Playboy Preseason All-American List doesn't come with a trip to the Playboy Mansion like it has in year's past.
"My girlfriend asked about it. She was a little startled by it," Heyward said. "I had to explain it and had to clarify that it is one of the most prestigious awards ever."
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Tuesday Heyward was named to the Playboy All-American list after opting to forgo an NFL career for one more season to return to Ohio State for his senior year with the Buckeyes.
By making a decision like that, many would say Heyward is entitled to a weekend in Los Angeles with some beautiful women at the Playboy Mansion, but the senior is happy with just being named to the list.
"I am not into all the bunnies and the Playboy Mansion. My girlfriend would have killed me," Heyward said with a chuckle. "I had to tell my mom. It is kind of bittersweet. She was happy that I wasn't going to the Playboy Mansion."
Heyward was also named to the preseason Lombardi and Lott Trophy lists after leading Ohio State with 6.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss last year. In addition, Heyward led all the team in tackles with 46 and came up big in perhaps the team's biggest win against the Nittany Lions when he registered nine tackles and two for his squad.
"Not a lot of guys get to say they're a playboy all American. I am very honored," Heyward said. "That was one of my goals coming in as a freshman. You always want to be a Playboy All-American. A lot of pressure is on me now and I just have to live up to it.
"To be honored like that, to be in the same category as some of the all-time greats and some of the guys that are in it this year, it is just amazing," he continued. "To be a part of that is just an incredible honor."
When decided to come back for his senior season, Heyward had an impression that he could be looked at as the face of the defense. After all, many felt he would have been a first round pick in the NFL Draft last season.
But as the preseason recognition continues to pile up, Heyward continues to stay focused on what he does best - improving as a football player. While the award meant a lot to him, he said he has his sight on some bigger things.
"I look at it as a challenge. Since the bullseye is on my back I am going to get a lot more attention from offenses," Heyward said. ". They might double-team me more and triple team mean, but there are other three guys on that line. Our whole defense, they fly around, and that's exciting.
"I look forward to trying to be a leader on this team and if I do become a captain I am happy, but just to be a part of this is an unbelievable feeling."
Heyward was asked again if he ever looks back at his decision to return to the Buckeyes and second-guesses himself, but the senior said he couldn't be happier with his decision to return back to school.
"Looking back at my decision it was mostly focused on getting my education and then fulfilling my dream of national championship and Big Ten Championship," Heyward said. "I am happy with my decision. I just saw (Thad Gibson) in (the weight room) right now. He can't go to the minicamps because he is still doing school and he has the itch to be right here now. I am just happy I made the decision coming back.
"I see all the progress we have made so far and I think the sky is the limit for this team and to be a part of it is something special. You only get one opportunity to be in college, and I want to go out the right way."
Individually, Heyward is flattered with being recognized in the preseason as a player that could stand out, but these awards aren't as good as the ones he hopes will come.
"You want the post awards," he said. "Not the pre."
Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.