This is the way it should be.
- A special player playing his entire career for a special organization, going out with a special moment.
Merely weeks after vowing that his career was not over, Hines Ward decided to retire as a Pittsburgh Steeler. He announced his decision in a tear-filled press conference at the team’s South Side complex, with Art Rooney II, Kevin Colbert, Mike Tomlin, Brett Keisel, Aaron Smith, James Harrison, and Jerome Bettis in attendance.
Ward was emphatic that he felt he could still play, and said the competitive desire still burned in him. But, reflecting on his legion accomplishments with the team, Ward truthfully said, “I don’t have prove anything to no one.”
At the end of the day it was his love for the Steelers and his love for Steelers Nation that moved Ward to hang it up now, tearfully declaring:
Today I came back to Pittsburgh to grant Steelers Nation its one last request.
Today, I am officially retiring as a Pittsburgh Steeler.
Ward read a prepared statement, beginning by warning James Harrison that no he would not cry. Ward’s pledge lasted all of two minutes.
As a testament to his character, Ward went out of his way not only to thank his coaches and the Rooneys, but also the team’s training and front office staff – members of the organization who are invisible to the average fan, but just as vital to the team’s ability to win games.
- The poise and class evident in Ward during his farewell press conference revealed just how strong of a locker room leader Ward is and how deeply he’ll be missed.
But even there, Ward offered words of wisdom, praising predecessors, talking about how guys like Dermonti Dawson, Greg Lloyd, Levon Kirkland, Jerome Bettis and Kordell Stewart for teaching him how to practice and how to win.
His message was clear: Ward learned from the men who understood what it meant to wear the Steelers uniform and he’s done everything in his power to continue the tradition.
14 years ago the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Hines Ward using their second third round pick in the 1998 NFL draft, making Ward the 92nd player chosen overall. 10 other receivers, including Randy Moss, came off the board before Tom Donahoe and Bill Cowher called Ward’s name.
- Only a fool would take any one of the before taking Ward were a redraft to be held today.
Since that moment, Ward built an impressive resume:
- Playing in 217 games, starting 190 of them where he caught 1,000 passes for 12,083 yards scoring 85 touchdowns
- Rushing for 428 yards and scored another touchdown,
- Making 42 special teams tackles during his first three seasons
- Delivering bone crunching blocks, which became so fearsome that he forced rule changes
- Winning MVP Honors in Super Bowl XL
- Leading the team to Super Bowls XL and Super Bowl XLIII victories
Those are Hall of Fame numbers, period.
But as Ward himself said, “Its not about stats.” And in his 14 years Ward did something both far more impressive and far more important that stats can never measure.
Hines Ward contributed to and helped define the very essence of what it means to be a Pittsburgh Steeler.
Hines Ward knows that and understands what that means explaining:
As much as I will miss football, my teammates, coaches and everything about the game, I don’t want to play it in any other uniform. The Black and Gold runs deep in me, and now I will remain a Steeler for life.
Hines Ward has not only earned the right to call himself a Steeler for life, he retries and one of the men who has helped establish that as something truly special.