Leaving A Legacy
By Matt “Chtulu80” White
Player. Hard Hitter. Blocking Machine. Veteran. Pro Bowler. Super Bowl MVP. Champion. These words I use to describe a player that decided to hang up the jersey and pads today, Hines Ward. Myself, as a huge football fan and Pittsburgh Steelers fan I am sad to see this day come. Although we could all see the writing on the wall starting mid way through last season, its not a day or decision that came easy to Ward a 14 year veteran wide receiver.
“I have gotten offers to play in other cities, but those cities are not Pittsburgh” said Hines at his press conference this afternoon. After playing in the same city for 14 years he just could not see himself going and playing for anyone else. The tearful Ward stated today that he did not want to tarnish his legacy by padding his career stats elsewhere. By retiring today, he joins a long line of Steeler greats. Even at his position, he is tops. Ward owns all the major receiving records for the franchise including 1000 receptions, which also puts him at 8th all time and only 1 of 2 players to have 1000 receptions and two Super Bowl rings to his credit. Not bad for a 3rd round draft pick out of the University of Georgia in 1998.
When Ward started out in the league he started off mostly as a blocker for running back Jerome Bettis. From there when the Steelers decided to change up their “ground and pound” running offense to more of an even split with passing there was Ward eating up the yards. Not one to shy away from anyone, he would take those crossing routes like a champ even if it did mean taking a hard shot from the likes of Ray Lewis and others. The one thing with Hines though was even if he was on the receiving end of a viscous hit, he would just get up smiling. That big wide smile was always present, even if he dropped a pass you could see in his face that it was his fault but wasn’t going to let it bother him. He would always catch the next one.
Although most fans whose teams had to play against Ward probably didn’t care too much for him as a player, they had to respect the talent. I have seen so many times when he was double or triple teamed and it would open up a hole elsewhere. Then the quarterback would target Ward on the next play.
His stats, I believe, are worthy of the Hall of Fame. He is 8th overall in receptions with 1000, 18th overall in reception yards, and tied for 13th for touchdown receptions. While in the past few years it has been proven harder for wide receivers to get into Canton, I believe that these numbers will go a long way to helping him get there. Just think of all the Pittsburgh greats that are already there. Franco, Terry, Jack, Lynn, and others so why shouldn’t he be with them? Like him or not you have to respect the skill.
This is a very sad day for Steeler fans everywhere. Hines gave his all for 14 years, how could you ask for more than that. This man is a class act in the city of steel. This writer believes that this is how all football careers should end. By that I mean that the player gets out when he still has plenty of health left instead of just giving off the appearance of being a broken down man like most who play past their time. This man has plenty of energy and you will probably see him in the studio in the next few years doing commentary. I, for one, would tune in to watch and hear his take on the days games. While I do wish Hines luck in future works, I doubt it will be long before we all see that big grinning smile again