Hines Ward is perhaps the greatest wide receiver in Steelers’ history and certainly the best blocking wide receiver in NFL history. He is a two-time Super Bowl champion; the MVP of Super Bowl XL; a four-time pro bowler; the all-time team leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns; the only receiver in Steelers history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards for four straight seasons; was named to the Steelers' 75th Season All-Time Team; and owns every receiving record in franchise history.
Born in South Korea to a Korean mother and an African American father, Ward was raised in the Atlanta area by his single mom, Young-He Ward, who managed to provide for her son despite coming to the US without any friends and not knowing English. In recognition of his mother’s sacrifice, he would embody that sense of determination throughout his life. Perhaps former Steelers offensive coordinator and current Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt put it best when he said, “Hines makes all the overachievers in the world proud. I’m just so proud of him because of what a team guy he is. Whatever obstacles have been put in his way, he’s surpassed that because he burns with a competitive spirit unlike anyone I’ve ever seen.”
In 2006, Ward returned to South Korea for the first time since he moved to the US and spent two months there on a mission to use his celebrity status to encourage social and political reform in the country, focusing on the discrimination that mixed-racial children endure there. On his final day in South Korea, he donated $1 million to create the Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation to further that cause.
Passionate about speaking out against mixed-race discrimination, Hines Ward discusses his multi-racial upbringing as well as his current efforts with audiences around the country. He also speaks about his seasoned football career—in which he had to overcome various injuries— and his work with various charitable organizations.
Ward became a top scholar-athlete in Georgia, not only as quarterback on the gridiron at Forest Park High School earning numerous all-county and all-American honors, but also on the baseball diamond. He was even drafted at the end of his senior year by the Florida Marlins, who offered a $25,000 bonus to sign. But Ward chose to pursue his first love, going on to play college football for the hometown Georgia Bulldogs, where he was recruited as a quarterback. He soon found that he was so successful with spot roles at tailback and wideout that he eventually stopped practicing with the quarterbacks altogether.
He went on to shine as a receiver, developing an uncanny sense for getting separation on his routes and using his quick feet to make up for what he lacked in speed and size. At the end of his senior year he as bestowed All-SEC honors and finished his college career as Georgia's second all-time receiver with 144 receptions. His total yards of 3,870 ranked second in Bulldogs history to Herschel Walker.
Worried that his varied college career might hinder his entry as a top pick in the 1998 NFL draft, Ward was dealt another blow to his hopes when a pre-draft physical revealed he was missing an ACL in his left knee, the result of a childhood bicycle accident. Relieved when the Pittsburgh Steelers finally took him in the 3rd round as the 92nd pick overall, Ward made it his mission to let the Steelers know they made a great choice and to make the other teams sorry that they had passed him up. Used at first on special teams by Coach Bill Cower, the epitome of doing anything to help the team, it soon became clear that Hines played the game of football with unmatched intensity.
As Ward eventually worked his way into the Steelers receiving corps, it also became clear that he could be depended on to get open and make the big catch, but beyond that he never took a down off, and without the ball he blocked with the ferocity of an offensive lineman. The rest, as they say, is history—Steelers history, that is!
Yet Ward has been equally impressive off the field, proving himself to be a man of character both in his local and worldwide community. He was named the Steelers’ 2008 “Walter Payton Man of the Year,” was featured as ABC’s “Person of the Week,” has met and befriended four world leaders (two US Presidents and two Korean Presidents), is the founder of Helping Hands Foundations in the US and Korea, is active with numerous other foundations (including The Caring Foundation, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Pearl S. Buck International), and has started his own afterschool iTpod education program for kids in his home state of Georgia. Ward has been featured on the cover of numerous publications (Newsweek, Time, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Moves Magazine, and Whirl to name a few) and was featured as one of GQ's 2009 "Men of the Year."
In September of 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Ward as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. In 2011, Ward and dance partner Kym Johnson won season 12 of the American TV dance competition Dancing with the Stars.
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