The National Football Foundation released the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame Ballot, and for the seventh year in a row, Pitt greats Matt Cavanaugh and Craig ‘Ironhead’ Heyward are featured on the ballot.
The ballot features 80 players and nine coaches from the FBS and 96 players and 33 coaches from the lower divisions. The class, which is voted on by NFF members and current Hall-of-Famers, will be announced in early 2023 on a date that has yet to be determined, and they will be inducted on Dec. 5, 2023 during the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame honors in Atlanta, Georgia.
“It’s an enormous honor to just be on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot considering more than 5.54 million people have played college football and only 1,056 players have been inducted,” National Football Foundation President & CEO Steve Hatchell said. “The Hall’s requirement of being a first-team All-American creates a much smaller pool of about 1,500 individuals who are even eligible. Being in today’s elite group means an individual is truly among the greatest to have ever played the game, and we look forward to announcing the 2023 College Football Hall of Fame Class early next year.”
Cavanaugh, 65, was Pitt’s starting quarterback in 1976, when they went undefeated and won the national championship. He was also the MVP of the 1977 Sugar Bowl. Cavanaugh was a 1977 All-American and finished with 3,378 career passing yards.
The Youngstown, Ohio native played in the NFL for 15 seasons, and has served as a coach for 27 years. He rejoined Pitt as a tight ends coach from 1992-93 and again as offensive coordinator from 2005-08. He most recently served as senior offensive assistant for the Washington Redskins in 2019.
Heyward racked up over 3,000 yards in three seasons with the Panthers from 1985-87. In his junior season, the bruising runner rushed for 1,791 yards and 12 touchdowns and was an All-American. He was drafted in the first round by the New Orleans Saints and had 4,301 yards and 30 touchdowns in his 11-year pro career. Sadly, Heyward passed away at age 39 in 2006 after a battle with cancer. Heyward’s sons, Cameron and Connor, both play for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
There are currently 19 Pitt players in the College Football Hall of Fame. The last Panthers player to be inducted was offensive guard Ruben Brown in 2015.