Former Pitt athletes nominated for College Football Hall of Fame


Former Pitt football players Matt Cavanaugh and Craig Heyward were added to the induction ballot for the 2019 College Football Hall of Fame, located in Atlanta. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Two former Pitt football players were added to the induction ballot for the 2019 College Football Hall of Fame on Monday by the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.

Matt Cavanaugh and Craig Heyward were among several familiar college football stars, including former Texas and Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young, nominated to the Class of 2019 future inductees.

Cavanaugh started playing football at Pitt in 1974. When given the position of starting quarterback in 1976, he led his team to a national championship over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, earning him MVP of that game. Accumulating 3,378 total passing yards, the first-team All-American quarterback is among the top 15 in Pitt history. He later was drafted in the second round of the 1978 NFL Draft to the New England Patriots, and continued his career with the San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. After accumulating 4,332 passing yards, 28 overall career touchdowns and two Super Bowl rings as a player, Cavanaugh switched over to the sideline as offensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins, where he works today.

Heyward, known to many as “Ironhead,” joined the program in 1984 a decade after Cavanaugh. He accumulated 3,086 rushing yards — marking him as the second-leading rusher in the program’s history, behind Tony Dorsett. Named as a 1987 All-American running back, Heyward left Pitt his junior year to join the New Orleans Saints, where he was selected in the first round of the 1988 NFL draft. He went on to play with the Chicago Bears, Atlanta Falcons, St. Louis Rams and Indianapolis Colts over the course of 11 seasons. Heyward passed away in 2006 at age 39 after being diagnosed in 1998 with brain cancer.

The complete list of nominees consists of 76 players and six coaches from the Football Bowl Subdivision and 100 players and 32 coaches from the divisional ranks.

“It’s an enormous honor to just be on the ballot when you think that more than 5.26 million people have played college football and only 997 players have been inducted,” Steve Hatchell, National Football Foundation president and CEO, said in a press release.

The National Football Foundation will select the 2019 class from the list of nominees and announce the inductees in early January 2019. The induction of the 2019 class will occur during the 62nd National Football Foundation’s annual awards dinner in December 2019.

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