View Full Version : Slightest slight is motivation for Hines Ward

09-13-2008, 12:20 AM
Slightest slight is motivation for Hines Ward
Imaginary burden on receiver's shoulders pushes him to astonishingly real results
Friday, September 12, 2008

There's not much remaining for Hines Ward to accomplish in his NFL career, and even he admits as much. He owns virtually every Steelers receiving record, and, with all respect to the great John Stallworth, deserves to be called the best to play the position for the franchise. What's more, not only has he been on a Super Bowl winner, he was MVP of the game.

Still, Ward continues to play the only way he knows how -- with not so much a chip on his shoulder but an entire lumber yard.

Congratulated on his six-catch, two-touchdown performance in the season opener against Houston, Ward did not offer up an, "Aw, shucks."

Instead, with a touch of belligerence in his voice, he asked the media, "Did I shock you guys?"

It was pure Ward, a player who has used slights, real and perceived, to motivate himself to the threshold of greatness. It is Ward's belief that any accomplishment of his is a shock to the world. No one, in his mind, believes he can do much of anything. There's a basis in reality for this belief. After tying for the team lead in receptions in 1999, Ward, a third-round draft choice in '98, found himself on the second team in training camp behind two first rounders -- Troy Edwards and rookie Plaxico Burress.

Ward seethed at the demotion, which was temporary, and used it as a motivational tool. He led the team in receptions that season -- catching more passes than Edwards and Burress combined -- and has led it every year since.

He has accumulated numbers, particularly in the Steelers run-oriented offense, that border on the astonishing. He is the all-time leader in career receptions, yards and touchdowns. With 725 receptions, he has caught 188 more passes than Stallworth and 389 more passes than Lynn Swann, both of whom are in the Hall of Fame. He has the three most prolific seasons in Steelers history with reception totals of 112, 95 and 94. To put those numbers in perspective, Stallworth's three best years were 80, 75 and 70 and Swann's were 61, 50 and 49.

Since eras are different, it's often not fair to compare players of today, to whom more passes are thrown, with players of the '70s and '80s. But Ward's numbers so dwarf any other player's that comparisons are more than fair.

On top of all that, he is widely acknowledged as one of the best and most fierce blocking receivers in the lead. He prides himself on his leadership role and has handled it well even before being named captain.

He's near the end now, in his 11th season and 32 years old. But he is not ready to quit -- not even thinking about it. His eyes are set on the Cleveland Browns, who the Steelers play Sunday night. Ward kind of likes the fact the game will be in Cleveland.

"I like the Dog Pound," he said of the Browns' infamous rooting section. "They say some mean things. I love it. When you're warming up and they're talking about your mamma and your daddy and stuff like that. Real classy.

"I just smile. They just try to spit and throw things and say a lot of mean stuff. It's part of football. The more harsh things they say, the more they respect me as a player. I look at it as a compliment."

That's Ward. He'll take a compliment anywhere he can get it.

These days he faces another young star ready to replace him as Ben Roethlisberger's favorite target. Santonio Holmes, another No. 1 pick and a superb deep threat, looks ready, in his third season, to make Ward less relevant. Let it happen, claims Ward, who only will use the challenge to push himself harder.

"When Santonio makes a play, I want to go out and make a play. We both bring out the best in each other. When Plax was here, we both wanted the ball. That's a good thing. When you have two guys who want the ball it can only help the team."

He has nothing left to prove -- "I've got every record in Steelers history and that speaks for itself" -- but admits one personal number interests him.

"I'd love to get 10,000 yards. That would be something to get 10,000 yards in this offense. It would be a huge mark. I'm about 1,200 yards short."

In the distance is the Hall of Fame. The fact his numbers are so superior to Stallworth and Swann means nothing. Voting for the Hall of Fame is highly unscientific.

"That's for you guys to vote on," he said. "It would be a huge honor. Am I a Hall of Fame player? I don't know. I just go out and play."

All the Steelers need between now and Sunday is for someone to mention to Ward in no uncertain terms that he is not a Hall of Famer.

That would crank up that famous Ward paranoia and woe unto the Cleveland Browns.
Bob Smizik can be reached at bsmizik@post-gazette.com.

09-13-2008, 09:31 AM
In this era it is arguable that there is no better all around receiver, especially on a team that has historically ran the ball 65-70% of the time. IF he gets to 10,000 yards and if he gets we'll say another 130 receptions he'll be in the top 10 in receptions in NFL history--although current players WILL pass him but he'll probably still be in the top 15--on a team that historically has ran the ball more than any other team. That to me is more than worthy of the Hall of Fame. And furthermore, what he has done in the community and around the world with his charitableness further shows the type of guy he is. In my mind he might not be a 1st ballot HOFer but HE'S 100% a 2nd/3rd ballot HOF in my mind.

09-13-2008, 11:11 AM
I think Ward has alot of terrific football left in him. Honestly I think he can play at a high level for another 3 seasons. This is terrific news for the Steelers because it means we can bring Sweed along slowly...which is what big rookie WRs need. Even after 3 years Ward should be a fierce slot if he can stay healthy.

09-13-2008, 01:58 PM
I hate to keep doing this, but these guys are professional writers that get paid big money to do this. And they have editors that supposedly read through everything with a fine toothed comb before it gets printed. Or perhaps they just rely on Microsoft Word's spell checker. Whatever.

On top of all that, he is widely acknowledged as one of the best and most fierce blocking receivers in the lead.

Or one of the best and most fierce blocking receivers in the league. That might make a bit more sense.

"I like the Dog Pound," he said of the Browns' infamous rooting section.

I believe they refer to it as the "Dawg Pound" but I wouldn't expect a guy that gets paid to cover football for a living to know something like that. I mean we only play that team twice a year, right?