PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Hines Ward’s time with the Pittsburgh Steelers came to an end in February. His time in the National Football League came to an end on Tuesday, when Ward announced his retirement.
Ward made the announcement during a press conference at noon. Ward was visibly emotional during the announcement and paused several times to collect himself.
“Today, I came back to Pittsburgh to grant Steeler Nation this one last request. So today, I am officially retiring as a Pittsburgh Steeler,” Ward said.
He thanked the Rooney family, Mike Tomlin, teammates and other members of the Steelers organization, but he also gave a special thanks to the fans.
“Last but not least, to my fans in Steeler Nation, no words can express how much you mean to me. Today is what you mean to me. Thanks for all the love and support throughout the OTAs, minicamps, training camp, injuries, Super Bowls and the lockout, just through it all. You guys have given me the best years of my life and I will never forget that, never. So, as I close this chapter of my life, I want to thank all you guys from the bottom of my heart,” Ward said.
Ward was released by the Steelers last month and he said the outpouring of support from fans around the world played into today’s decision.
“Through it all, I realized there is only one thing I love more than the game, and that is Steeler Nation.”
“For all the fans for years who camped out in the parking lots on game days in the freezing rain and snow, for all the fans who traveled all over the world, nationwide across the country to cheer us on, the ones wearing my jerseys in Denver, New York and even Baltimore and every city that I’ve ever played in, the ones who voted for me for Mirror Ball on ‘Dancing With The Stars’ and the ones I recently saw in the black and gold giving me a shout out on the red carpet at the Oscars, it is truly amazing.”
“Without the support over the past 14 years this game wouldn’t mean the same to me, wouldn’t be as fun for me. You guys meant the world to me. The city and this organization means the world to me. So, today as sadly as it feels to me right now, I hope today will be a good day for everybody here.”
Ward said that there was some interest from other teams around the league to continue his career, but he ultimately could not see himself wearing another uniform.
“As much as I will miss football, my teammates, coaches and everything about the game, I don’t want to play in any other uniform. The black and gold runs deep in me and I will remain a Steeler for life,” Ward said.
Ward was drafted by the Steelers in 1998 and was once one of team’s most pivotal players.
During his career, Ward had 1,000 receptions for 12,083 yards and 85 touchdowns and helped lead the Steelers to wins in Super Bowl XL and Super Bowl XLIII.
He was also selected to the Pro Bowl four times.
Ward is only the eighth player in NFL history to reach 1,000 career receptions.
Ward developed a reputation for being a hard-hitting blocker and always got up from a hit with a big smile on his face.
At the time of his release from the team, Ward issued the following statement:
“This isn’t how I wanted this chapter of my career to end. I did everything in my power to remain a Steeler and finish what I started here 14 years ago.
“I want to thank the organization, my teammates and coaches and everyone who made my run as a Steeler the best years of my life. To Mr. Rooney, thank you for allowing me to play for one of the greatest organizations in the world.
“To my fans and in particular, Steeler Nation, thank you for your support and all the great memories. I gave my heart and soul for you every down and I will always bleed black and gold. I do feel that I still have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL, again, this upcoming season.”
There was some speculation that Ward would sign with another team, but in the end, Ward ultimately decided to retire as a Steeler.
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