PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 17: Hines Ward #86 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during the game on October 17 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
It probably hasn't sunk in for him yet.
Former Steelers WR Hines Ward doesn't have a football season to prepare for this June. The month in which his former teammates begin the laborious grind of preparing for training camp, which in turn prepares them for the grueling season, is now the month in which Ward does not.
Pittsburgh Magazine caught up with Ward for a piece on the Steelers icon for its June issue, and in it, picked up some great quotes from the last guy to ever wear No. 86 for the Steelers.
Writer Sean Conboy caught up with Ward in Pittsburgh, where he was on hand to help honor the Western Pennsylvania Positive Athlete Awards. Speaking with him while he signed Terrible Towels, Ward was reflective and unguarded.
"For a while, I felt like I did want to keep playing," he says. "But that was just the younger me trying to prove a point. You know, I came into this league as a third-round guy, and now, people are debating whether or not I'm a Hall of Famer. I've caught 80-yard touchdowns. I ran with one of the fastest guys in the league, DeAngelo Hall, with one shoe on. To me, all I ever wanted when I left the game was for people to say, 'He was one hell of a football player.'"
One aspect of Ward I've always loved is that chip on his shoulder. On his deathbed, someone may tell Ward he's going to die, and Ward will tell them he's going to prove them wrong. And people who know him will believe he'll do it.
He was a player whose athleticism was not apparent at the NFL Scouting Combine. He didn't excel enough in any one area to lock down one position at the University of Georgia. But he was good enough of a football player to become a third round draft pick.
Ward has never let that go. Even in Conboy's interview, more than 14 years after being drafted, he's reminding people he was drafted in the third round.
He's obviously racked up quite an impressive resume, and it's something he speaks about with pride.
"Fourteen years - what more can you ask for?" Ward says. "I've gotten everything any pro athlete could ever want. I've won two Super Bowls, an MVP, I'm a part of the greatest organization in all of football, I met both President Bush and President Obama, been in a Batman movie and a Head & Shoulders commercial. Shoot, I don't even have hair!"