After having a breakout 2009 season, Cameron Heyward considered coming out early for the NFL draft. He decided against it, however, and it looked as if he was poised to vault himself into the top 10 of the 2011 NFL draft.
However, thanks to a combination of not being as dominant in his senior year and an injury and other players at his position stepping up, Heyward has now fallen someplace in the mix of the late first to early second-round area.
I got a chance to talk with Cameron about his final season at Ohio State, some of his memories while playing at Ohio State and his overall draft process.
Though the stat sheet may not jump out at you and say dominating effort, Heyward capped off his career at Ohio State as being one of the key reasons the team beat Ryan Mallett and the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Sugar Bowl.
"I was playing for those other seniors. They helped me in that game."
He finished the game with six tackles, three of them solo, and a sack, though he was in the backfield much more often than that. He finished off his career at Ohio State with a 48-tackle, four-sack season in his senior year.
Playing in the Big Ten, Cameron was constantly matched up against some of the nation's top offensive linemen, both in practice and in Big Ten play. After facing guys like Gabe Carimi this season, Heyward went back to his freshman season to find his stiffest competition in college.
"Jake Long was probably the best I ever played against [at Ohio State]. You had to bring it all every time. I heard nicknames like the 'Road Grader' and found out what they meant."
Along with the opposing lineman he faced each and every week, for Heyward to be considered "productive" he'd have to eventually get to the quarterback and take him down. Over the course of his career, he's played many different styles of the quarterback position.
"I would say Juice Williams and Colt McCoy and Mark Sanchez and Ryan Mallett were all tough to face, all with different styles. It's better for me to good to rely on cornerbacks to play up, so I'd rather pocket passers."
As Heyward finished his college career and began the "draft process," the biggest concern for many teams was and still is how the recovery from his elbow surgery has been progressing.
"It was a tear in the UCL in the elbow. The surgery was similar to Tommy John surgery, but not a full Tommy John. The recovery was only about 8-12 weeks. I have learned that I need to be constantly pushing myself through the rehab, and I think I've done that.
"Teams aren't concerned from those I've spoken with. I just didn't want it to be a nagging injury over the course of my career."
Now that the combine and pro days are over with, the last chance teams have to get some final notes on prospects is to bring prospects into their facilities and conduct interviews. For Heyward and the lack of workouts he can do because of the injury recovery, these are crucial.
"I've had a bunch of team meetings, and even though I can't tell who they are, it's been busy."
Some reports are that he's a target of the Patriots and Ravens at the back end of the first round as a 3-4 defensive end, a position I think he can fill well. Ironically, he models his game after a former Patriot.
"I always enjoyed watching Richard Seymour. He's very versatile."
Heyward will be selected somewhere in the top 64 on draft day with the potential to go as high as the early 20s depending how much teams value what he can do for their franchises.
After going from potential top-10 pick in the preseason to the second round after a lack of "production" this year, and now back into the first-round area, it's been a hectic ride for Heyward and his draft stock.
He told me that he was invited to the 2011 NFL draft in New York but instead chose to be in Atlanta to spend time with his family. We wish the best to Cameron Heyward as the draft process ends and his NFL career can finally begin.