The annual meat market that is the NFL Combine gets underway this week and that got me to thinking about everything that is involved with the evaluation process that the players have to go through. National Football League teams want to know about any and everything in a prospective player’s history. Back in 1998, it was discovered that a wide receiver from the University of Georgia did not have an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee due to a bicycle accident in his childhood. This probably (i.e. DEFINITELY) had something to do with his not being drafted until the third round. Turns out, the Pittsburgh Steelers got a steal as this player would go on to be a three time Team MVP, a four time Pro Bowl selection and be named the MVP of Super Bowl XL. As I’m sure you know by now, there is only one former DAWG that we can be talking about…..
RETROBEAST: HINES WARD, #19 WIDE RECEIVER (1994-1997)
Hines Ward came to the University of Georgia after a stellar prep career at Forest Park (GA) High School. Ward earned All-American honors from SuperPrep, Blue Chip Illustrated & USA Today, and added All-State & Super Southern Top 100 honors and was a two-time Clayton County Offensive Player of the Year. Hines rushed for 1,111 yards and 14 touchdowns and completed 122-of-204 passes for 1,575 yards and 14 scores as a quarterback during his senior season...threw for 3,581 yards and 38 scores and rushed for 2,500 yards and 29 touchdowns during his three-year career.
Hines Ward did everything during his time wearing the red and black and he did it well. During his time in Athens Ward not only played wide receiver, but he also lined up at tailback, punt returner, kick returner and even at quarterback. You need to look no further than Hines’ second season in Athens to see his versatility. In 1995, Ward started the first two games at flanker before moving to tailback for the third game, to quarterback for the fourth game, back to tailback for the seventh game, and then returned to quarterback for the final three games. In the 1995 Peach Bowl, Ward completed 31 of 59 passes for 413 yards. Ward set (and still holds) Georgia records for Pass Attempts, Pass Completions, and Passing Yards in a bowl game. Simply put, Ward was just a play-maker at Georgia. Ward totaled 3,870 all-purpose yards, second only to Herschel Walker (5,749) in Bulldogs history.
I have several great memories of Hines playing “between the hedges” from his head-over-heels vault into the end zone in the rain against Texas Tech in 1996 to his bewilderment of the HATED Gators during the DAWGS beat down of Florida in 1997 to the show he put on against the Techies in his final regular season game wearing the red and black.
As a wide receiver for the DAWGS, Ward's 144 career receptions for 1,965 yards placed him second in team history. In 1997, Hines hauled in 55 passes and scored six TDs, getting All-SEC honors in the process and received All-America honors from The Poor Man’s Guide to the NFL Draft. Ward got it done in the classroom too, making the grade as an Academic All-SEC pick in 1996. Ward also garnered honors in 1994 being named to the All-SEC Freshman team by the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
As I mentioned earlier, Ward was taken in the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Check out this brief rundown of his pro career from STEELERS.COM:
Ward is one of the top receivers in the NFL and is the longest-tenured wide receiver with the same team in the league...is a four-time Pro Bowl selection (2002-05)...is the team’s all-time leader in receptions (800), receiving yards (9,780) and receiving touchdowns (72)...is the only Steeler to have at least 800 career catches and over 9,000 career receiving yards...became the only receiver in Steelers’ history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards for four straight seasons (2001-04)...has team records for receptions in a season (112), which he set in 2002...posted 12 TD receptions in 2003 to tie Louis Lipps (1985) and Buddy Dial’s (1961) team record...drafted by Pittsburgh in the third round (92nd overall) of the 1998 NFL Draft...named Associated Press All-Pro second team in both 2003 and 2004...was named the Steelers’ co-MVP in 2005 (along with Casey Hampton) and 2002 (with Joey Porter), and outright in 2003... earned Super Bowl XL MVP honors after finishing with a game-high 123 receiving yards on five receptions with one touchdown...has led the Steelers in receptions the past 10 years (tied with Troy Edwards in 1999)...has a pass in a team-record 162 games entering the 2009 season...was named to the Steelers’ 75th Season All-Time Team during the 2007 season...named the Steelers’ 2008 Walter Payton Man of the Year...signed a five-year contract in 2001...signed a four-year extension during the 2005 training camp...restructured his contract during the 2009 offseason and signed an extension to keep him with the team through 2013.
Hines was an outstanding player during his time at UGA and has done nothing but continue to bring honor to himself and the DAWGS since he has left Athens. From Wikipedia.com:
As a figure for social change
Ward's mother, Kim Young-hee is Korean and his father, Hines Ward, Sr., is African-American. In 2006, Ward became the first Korean-American to win the Super Bowl MVP award. This achievement threw him into the media spotlight in South Korea.
From April 3 through May 30, 2006, Ward returned to his birthplace of Seoul for the first time since his parents moved to the United States when he was one year old. Ward used his celebrity status to arrange "hope-sharing" meetings with multiracial Korean children and to encourage social and political reform. At one hope-sharing meeting, he told a group of children, "If the country can accept me for who I am and accept me for being a Korean, I'm pretty sure that this country can change and accept you for who you are." On his final day in Korea, he donated $1 million USD to create the Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation, which the AP called "a foundation to help mixed-race children like himself in South Korea, where they have suffered discrimination."
Any way you choose to look at it, Hines Ward commands recognition as A DAMN BEAST!!! and a Damn Good Dawg. Glory, Glory.
For your viewing pleasure, I present the following:
“Our heart, that was torn out and bleeding, we picked it up and stuck it back inside!” - Larry Munson
That is absolutely one of my top three Munson radio calls and it just happened to come from the final game of my time at Georgia as an undergrad.
GEORGIA vs. GEORGIA TECH – 1997
HINES OWNING THE JACKETS IN THIS GAME
Just because I don’t think it’s possible to see this video enough, HERE’S THE FULL MEAL DEAL VERSION OF THE GAME
During his time in Pittsburgh, Ward has developed a reputation as a hard-nosed player and a devastating blocker. I consider this yet another reason to be proud of this DAWG. Here is some video proof:
WARD BLASTS KEITH RIVERS
WARD ROCKS ED REED