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June 7, 2013

Countdown to Labor Day: 87

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

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