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June 7, 2013
The countdown to the start of the 2013 season is under way, as Pitt is 87 days away from its Labor Day opener against Florida State at Heinz Field. Panther-Lair.com is counting down the days until the biggest season opener in recent memory.
Today's number is 87, so we're looking at the final year of a former Panther who was given two names at birth but only needed one at Pitt.
Craig "Ironhead" Heyward was one of the most physically intimidating and flat-out punishing running backs in the history of college football, let alone Pitt history. And while he led the Panthers in rushing in 1984 and 1986 - he was suspended for the 1985 season due to legal issues stemming from an assault charge - his final year, 1987, was his finest and one of the best in Pitt history.
In fact, that's not hyperbole; Heyward's performance as a redshirt junior stands as one of the most productive ever by a Pitt running back. The Passaic (NJ) Native carried the ball 387 times for 1,791 yards and 12 touchdowns. The carries (387) rank as the most in a single season by any player in Pitt history, and the yards (1,791) rank No. 3 on the list of most rushing yards in a season.
Heyward's name is all over the Pitt record books, and most of those mentions come from the 1987 season. His 259 yards against Kent State rank No. 8 on the single-game rushing list (he also set the No. 9 record on that list when he rushed for 254 a year earlier), and he tied Tony Dorsett's record with 12 100-yard rushing games in a single season.
A consensus All-American in 1987, Heyward finished fifth in voting for the Heisman Trophy that year.
Ironhead even made one of the longest receiving plays in Pitt history; his 75-yard reception from John Congemi in 1986 is among the top-20 longest passing plays in school history.
Heyward finished his Pitt career with 3,086 rushing yards, the third-most in school history. He went on to be a first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints in the 1988 NFL Draft, and he played with four other teams throughout the course of his 11-year pro career.
A 260-pound brute, Heyward was built more like a defensive tackle than a running back, but he became one of the most productive backs in Pitt history.
Countdown: 88 - Pitt's All-American tradition
Countdown: 89 - Iron Mike
Countdown: 90 - The four 9-0's
Countdown: 91 - The two longest plays in Pitt history
Countdown: 92 - The senior year of the most productive QB in Pitt history
Countdown: 93 - The only 9-3 season in Pitt history
Countdown: 94 - The statistical oddity of 1994
Countdown: 95 - A relentless player and his dominant season
Countdown: 96 - The biggest win in Pitt history
Countdown: 97 - A dominant current Panther
Countdown: 98 - A transition year
Countdown: 99 - Hugh Green
Countdown: 100 - A look at Pitt in 1913