PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For the next five years, the debate will begin. Is Hines Ward a hall of famer?
The answer will be eventually, yes, but first ballot – probably not. However, there are a lot of reasons why a first ballot nomination is not out of the question.
It all began in 1998. Hines Ward was drafted in the third round out of Georgia.
“I’m just excited to be here,” Ward said on his first day as a Steeler.
“It’s his first day – you can’t really expect him to do too much,” Kordell Stewart said at the time.
Donning a No. 15 jersey in the preseason, we got our first glimpse at who would become the most prolific receiver in Steelers history.
Hines would get the number 86 and mainly see the field as a special teamer, but he was a receiver at heart and caught his first pass in that rookie year from Kordell Stewart.
It wasn’t until the ’99 season that Ward found his way into the end zone with his first career touchdown from Mike Tomczak.
There would be many more quarterbacks who found out it was a good idea to throw to Hines Ward. In fact, Hines caught passes from 12 different Steelers in his career – Stewart, Tomczak, Pete Gonzalez, Kent Graham, Jerome Bettis, Tommy Maddox, Charlie Batch, Dennis Dixon, Byron Leftwich, Cedric Wilson, Ben Roethlisberger and one unforgettable catch from Antwaan Randle El.
As we saw Hines Ward blossom on the field, we couldn’t get enough. He hosted “The Hines Ward Show” on KDKA-TV for three seasons and even ventured into the KDKA Weather Department.
But Ward is and was a football player. Nobody could have predicted 14 years ago that Hines Ward would hold nearly every team receiving record in the books and hang it up with exactly 1,000 catches.