Growing up in a suburb outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it was simply inevitable that I'd become a lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan. So, when news came out that Super Bowl MVP, franchise record-holder, hard-hitter, Dancing With the Stars champ Hines Ward was being released by the Steelers at the beginning of the month, I was, in a word, devastated.
Everyone in Pittsburgh and anyone who's a fan of the NFL (and Dancing With the Stars) know Hines for his famous smile, amazing attitude, talent, and charisma. But as a Steelers fan, we also know him as the cornerstone of the team, a veteran of 14 years whose experience and lovability will not be replaced any time soon. Now, with news that Hines has decided to retire as a Steeler, I tuned in to his noon press conference for the announcement, watching him get teary-eyed in his black and gold tie (yep, if I were seeing this at home alone, I'd be bawling). So ... why exactly do we love Hines so much? Let me count the ways.
1. Hines Ward was born in Seoul, South Korea, to a Korean mother and African American father. During his football career, he advocated for the acceptance of foreigners in Korea and helped break many barriers for mixed race children.
2. Hines had an amazing college career while playing for the University of Georgia Bulldogs. He became second in team history with 149 career receptions and 1,965 yards as a wide receiver, and even played tailback.
3. He's played for 14 seasons for the Steelers, after being drafted in the third round back in 1998. For any player in the cutthroat industry of professional football to stay with the same team his entire career is quite a feat.
4. He's earned three team MVP selections, four Pro Bowl selections, a streak of four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, and set records for the franchise for receptions and touchdowns. Whew, I'd say that's quite a resume!
5. Hines has been to the Super Bowl three times and won the big game twice, also being chosen as MVP in 2006. He was the first Korean American to win this award.
6. Ward was videotaped for the "I'm Going to Disney World!" commercial, adding "... and I'm taking The Bus!" (That's the nickname for Jerome Bettis, another Steelers legend.) Pretty sure this made all Steelers' fans lives complete.
7. President Barack Obama appointed Ward as a member of the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
8. Hines got his groove on, showing he's more than a football player, becoming the champion of Dancing With the Stars! Jeez, this guy has to win everything ...
9. His smile.
10. Hines may have been voted as a dirty player within the NFL, but Steelers fans will always remember the many highlights he's given us. Like his hit on Ed Reed, for example. Or this Super Bowl pass from Antwaan Randle El to Hines. What a great career, with some pretty great memories.
Here's a video of his press conference:
Hines, you are a Steeler for life. What do you think about him retiring?
Image via SteelCityHobbies/Wikimedia