Ward finds it's just as nice to give as it is to receive
Friday, October 03, 2008
By Mike White, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Hines Ward gives back to his high school
Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward said it's his way of giving back. Through his way, the football players at his high school alma mater in Georgia now have new jerseys on their backs.
And a new commercial washer and dryer to wash uniforms.
And new weights in the weight room.
Ward is certainly one giving receiver.
Ward bought all of the above -- and then some -- for Forest Park High School's football team near Atlanta. Counting the new home and away uniforms (pants and jerseys) for 73 players, the washer and dryer, the new weights, the new shirts for the coaches, the new equipment bags for the players, an ice machine and some new water coolers, it is believed Ward paid in excess of $40,000. The jerseys alone were around $100 apiece.
Sure, the guy makes millions. But this isn't something Ward had to do, and he didn't seek publicity for his generosity. Unlike some players who donate, he didn't have a news release sent to media outlets, and he didn't really want to talk about what he paid.
"You don't have to publicize doing some good deeds. I just did it out of my heart," Ward said. "Things haven't been really going well at my high school and I had an opportunity to give back, so I did. Because it all started for me in high school."
Ward played football, basketball and baseball at Forest Park before playing football at the University of Georgia. He was a 74th-round draft pick of the Florida Marlins baseball team after his senior year at Forest Park in 1994.
Ward bought the uniforms from Tim Fogarty's Century Sports company in McMurray. Century supplies the Steelers uniforms as well as equipment and uniforms for many high school teams in the WPIAL.
"He called up this summer and said he wanted to come out to our place and wanted to buy top of the line uniforms, the same quality the Steelers wear," Fogarty said. "He just said he wanted to give something back to his high school. I don't think you see many guys in his position give back this much to where they came from. You wish more guys did it."
Rod Perrymond is in his first year as Forest Park's coach and he was Ward's roommate at the University of Georgia.
"It's nice to see some pro athletes give back to the community where they came from," said Perrymond, who took over a program that had only one win the past three seasons. "I think maybe it also inspires the kids to maybe one day do the same thing if they can."
Ward also conducted a free football clinic this summer at Forest Park. He brought fellow Steelers Willie Parker, Casey Hampton and James Farrior with him for the clinic.
"[Forest Park] has a lot of troubled kids who don't really have a lot of dreams and inspirations," Ward said. "They don't really have anyone to look up to.
"We're blessed to be in the position to help them. But you just can't be blessed with athletic ability [in high school]. You have to be a student as well. A lot of kids nowadays need to hear that. Things don't get started if you don't do well in academics. ... I was good. I had a 3.8 grade average. Academics were important to me and having those grades made it easier for me. But a lot of these kids wait until the last minute. They get to their senior years and they're trying to play catch-up in school for what they did as freshmen and sophomores."
Ward likes high school football and has attended WPIAL games at McKeesport and Gateway. He said he also regularly reads about top local teams and players.
"I'm a big high school fan," Ward said. "To this day, I love watching kids. To this day, I'd say if I wasn't playing football, I'd be a high school coach."
Mike White can be reached at [email="email@example.com"]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email] or 412-263-1975.
First published on October 3, 2008 at 12:00 am