Ex-Raider Hey­ward-Bey out to show he’s no draft bust

The Fresno Bee - - Sports - BY JERRY MCDON­ALD

Some $38 mil­lion and change later, can we agree Dar­rius Hey­ward-Bey is not a bust?

It’s an over-used term in the draft process, and in­cor­rectly ap­plied when it comes to one of the most con­tro­ver­sial draft picks in the ten­ure of late Raiders’ owner Al Davis. Hey­wardBey is a re­serve re­ceiver and spe­cial teams player for the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers, who visit the Coli­seum Sun­day.

Hey­ward-Bey never be­came the game-break­ing wide re­ceiver Davis en­vi­sioned. In­stead, he came to un­der­stand his lim­i­ta­tions, max­i­miz­ing both his ca­reer and in­come.

Lead­ing up to the 2009 NFL draft, one of the Raiders’ many needs was wide re­ceiver. Dur­ing a pro day at Cal, I talked with 49ers then gen­eral man­ager Scot McCloughan about the top prospects.

McCloughan told me to keep an eye on Hey­wardBey.

Nearly a decade later, the only play­ers among the 34 drafted re­ceivers still draw­ing an NFL pay­check other than Hey­ward-Bey are Michael Crabtree (Ravens), Mike Wal­lace (a third-round pick on in­jured re­serve with the Ea­gles) and Ju­lian Edel­man (an op­tion quar­ter­back and sev­en­thround pick out of Kent State by New Eng­land).

In 2011, Hey­ward-Bey had his big­gest sea­son, with 64 re­cep­tions for 950 yards. He played one year un­der Den­nis Allen, catch­ing 41 passes, then left as a free agent – first to the In­di­anapo­lis Colts in 2013 and then to the Steel­ers.

Hey­ward-Bey is cur­rently in the last year of a three-year deal worth $3.8 mil­lion, hav­ing caught 30 passes over the last four sea­sons (21 of those in 2015) and just a sin­gle re­cep­tion this year.

This sea­son, Hey­wardBey has more than twice as many spe­cial teams snaps as he does as a re­ceiver, which is rare con­sid­er­ing he doesn’t re­turn kick­offs or punts.

“It’s an ad­just­ment, but you take the strides, you un­der­stand this is where I am in my ca­reer,” Hey­ward-Bey told Steel­ers.com this past off-sea­son. “This is who I am right not now, and I em­brace it. A lot of peo­ple wake up in the morn­ing, brush their teeth and lie to them­selves. I try not to. I try to tell my­self the truth so I can get bet­ter.”

Ac­cord­ing to spo­trac.com, Hey­ward-Bey’s to­tal earn­ings are $38.3 mil­lion, and he’s re­lied on his mother, a CPA, to make sure the money saved has been in­vested wisely.

At 31, DHB may or may not be at the end of the road. Hey­ward-Bey has the last laugh if he wants it, but the beauty is he’s never wanted to use it any­way.

GENE J. PUSKAR AP

Pitts­burgh Steel­ers wide re­ceiver Dar­rius Hey­ward-Bey dur­ing a game Dec. 2 against the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers. Hey­ward-Bey was one of the most con­tro­ver­sial draft picks dur­ing the ten­ure of late Raiders’ owner Al Davis.

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