Steelers' Cam Heyward gifts puppy to Larry Ogunjobi for Christmas

ByBrooke Pryor ESPN logo
Friday, December 30, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Steelers know how to throw a white elephant party.

The defensive line and outside linebackers recently participated in the Christmas gift exchange, and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi came away with the best gift: a 3-month-old Bernese Mountain puppy.

Defensive captain Cam Heyward brought a dog crate to the exchange, but Ogunjobi didn't pick Heyward's gift at first. Instead, outside linebacker Malik Reed unwrapped Heyward's gift when it was his turn. Heyward explained that a puppy came with the crate, but because Reed's wife was pregnant, Reed thought a newborn and a puppy might be a little too much to manage.

When it was Ogunjobi's turn, he elected to steal Reed's gift rather than unwrap a new one. Turns out, that was Heyward's plan all along.

"I knew one of my teammates wanted a puppy," Heyward said on his podcast, "Not Just Football." "I got a puppy for white elephant and put it out there. Malik Reed picked up the crate and opened it and he was like, you're serious? You got a dog? He's expecting soon, and he's like, 'I don't know if a dog and baby are going to be OK. My wife is going to kill me.' I was just like, 'Tough. You're going to be stuck with it.' But we knew Larry Ogunjobi was going to take the dog."

Heyward also checked in with Ogunjobi ahead of time before he surprised him with the dog, but Heyward didn't reveal that he was actually going through with it.

"It was definitely cleared," Heyward said. "Probably in the back of the head he was like, 'He's not gonna really do it.' But you know, we had talked about multiple times just to make sure, I was like, 'Larry, I'm getting you a dog. Just make sure you're ready for it.'"

Ogunjobi said he had a feeling Heyward was going to get him the dog, which came from a place in Ohio, but he was still a little surprised when it actually happened. Ogunjobi first told Heyward and teammate T.J. Watt he wanted a Bernese Mountain dog earlier this season when the trio talked about Watt's wife wanting a red labrador retriever.

"It's a good-looking dog," Ogunjobi said of the Bernese Mountain breed. "I think I saw one [on] my TikTok and I was like, 'This is good-looking dog.' So I was like, and I'm getting one."

Ogunjobi, who also has a nine-year old Jack Russell terrier named Junior, named the new puppy Axel Foley after Eddie Murphy's character in Beverly Hills Cop. Junior mostly lives with Ogunjobi's parents in Greensboro, N.C., but because they brought the dog with them to visit their son over Christmas, both dogs got to play and meet.

"When Junior saw him, he was like, 'What is this?'" Ogunjobi said with a laugh. "They were like fighting a little bit ... and he's at that age where he doesn't really have time for that. So whenever Axel was jumping on him, he would just go upstairs and like go be with my mom and chill out. I don't blame him."