Steelers Legend Hines Ward Shares His Youth Football Memories and XFL Coaching Goals
Welcome to Why We Play, a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.
Playing football always came naturally for Hines Ward — ever since he started playing at age 10.
"During recess at school one day, one of my friends in my class his dad was coaching youth football," Ward recalled. "My friend asked me, 'Why don’t you play for my dad's team?' I couldn’t afford to play on the team, but his dad took care of it.
"I was 10 and playing against guys 15 and 16. They taught me toughness. I grew up fast. Got bigger, got faster. It just all came natural for me."
Ward played on his high school varsity team in Forest Park, Georgia as a freshman. He excelled and earned a scholarship to the University of Georgia.
Ward was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He played his entire 14-year career in Pittsburgh, winning two Super Bowls. He earned four Pro Bowl nods and the Super Bowl MVP award in Super Bowl XL.
Since retiring in 2012, Ward has worked in sports media and entertainment. He won the 12th edition of “Dancing With The Stars’’ in 2011 and also appeared in a few movies and television shows.
Now, he's trying his hand at coaching.
“I wish I had gotten into coaching sooner," Ward said. "But at that time of my life I needed to do some things. Now, I’ve done everything I wanted to do. I checked off a lot of boxes.
"I felt I was a coach on the field. I was team captain in Pittsburgh for half of my career. And that meant more to me than any Pro Bowl, or any of that, because it voted by the team. They chose me to go out and lead them."
In 2017, he became a coaching intern for the Steelers, working with the team's wide receivers. In 2019, he joined the New York Jets as an offensive assistant, and in 2021, he joined the Florida Atlantic University coaching staff.
Next spring, Ward will be the head coach of the XFL's San Antonio Brahmas.
"Being head coach is very different. It's more responsibility. You're seeing both sides of the ball, not just one position. Having played in Pittsburgh for 14 years, I’ve seen success. I know what it looks like. I also learned a lot of what not to do.
"It has been a natural transition to hop into the coaching world. I was always the player to ask, 'Why? Why did you call that play? Why did we do this?' I still have that curiousity today. I have always wanted to better understand the game. That’s why I’ve gotten into coaching."
Ward is compiling a staff that he hopes blends some youth with experience. And he said he's excited for the new challenge.
"I have so much to give back that I could help a kid, both on and off the field. I’ve been through almost every scenario. And I’ve been where they want to go."
Photo: AP/Don Wright
- NFL Players and Legends
- Youth Football