Cameron Heyward heads to Sugar full of Buckeye lore

Ohio State defensive tackle Cameron Heyward will play Tuesday in the Sugar Bowl. The Peachtree Ridge graduate from Suwanee had to learn his college’s deep traditions from the ground up.

I had no idea what a buckeye was when I first came here. I found out it was a poisonous nut, and they plant buckeye trees all over up here.

My senior year at Peachtree Ridge, I first came here for an unofficial visit, for the Michigan game. Ohio State beat Michigan that year. I got to experience up close and personal what it was all about and how passionate everything is here, and what a degree from Ohio State means.

I got to feel the bitter coldness. I’m originally from Pittsburgh, but from Georgia to Ohio, it was a big change. You go from starting the season pretty warm, but by the end of October it’s basically freezing here.

At that game, I got to see the nice facilities and feel what it was like being part of that crowd. As a player, I don’t get to see the band “dot the i,” but I did see that during one visit here with my mom’s dad, Rufus Jordan. We thought it was great to see them have that kind of craft.

When you become a Buckeye, you know there are some die-hard people around here.

During Michigan week, the students jump in Mirror Lake. That’s basically 20 degrees. You’ve got to see it.

There’s a guy who comes to our games called Buckeye Man. He wears a cowboy hat. He has so many different costumes.

Another guy sent me a Facebook message with his costume dedicated to me. He had an Ironman mask on. It was pretty cool. I’ve grown accustomed to comparisons with my father [NFL star Craig “Ironhead” Heyward], and I embrace it.

I saw what guys have gone to do after going to Ohio State. It has one of the biggest alumni bases of any college. Since then I have talked to [NFL linebacker] James Laurinaitis and other great players. Even those who didn’t play in NFL, I could see, were still successful.

Our campus is big, but I do get recognized a lot. Some players mind, but I don’t at all. It’s nice to be recognized.

I have one quarter to go and will graduate this spring with a degree in education. This winter I will student teach for second- or third-graders in Ohio. I hope they won’t recognize me, and just see me as a regular person, not as a Buckeye.

-- Reported by Michelle Hiskey