If you are a Steelers fan, chances are you love Hines Ward. It's tough not to love what he does on a football field, especially when it is for your team. He plays to (and some would say past) the whistle. Quit isn't a word in his vocabulary.
His critics have called him "the dirtiest player in the NFL." Two times he has even been officially voted that by other players in the league. Because of that, there has been a rule inspired by his blocking. He routinely receives a stadium full of boos when the Steelers are on the road. Despite all of this, he never stops smiling.
For the past few months, Ward has branched out from the football world to the Hollywood version of glitz meets pomp and circumstance: "Dancing with the Stars." Hines is far from the first athlete to be on the show at this point, with it now in its 12th season.
As he enters the final judging, Ward has acquitted himself well. Most of the scoffs directed at him for taking on the endeavor should at least turn towards respect for the accomplishment.
There also have been three things that we can take away from the show about Ward and his future:
- He Is Not Afraid To Cry: Hines has certainly had a blubbery past, most notably when the team felt that Jerome Bettis was going to retire without a Super Bowl ring. Ward discussed his disappointment and frustration over letting "Bussy" down—and cried...a lot! During the season of this show, his dancing partner, Kym Johnson, was injured in practice. When their "made for TV" return was a success, Ward let the waterworks flow again.
- Ward Has Successfully Expanded His "Brand:" Unlike former competitor Chad Ochocinco, Ward has never gone out of his way to seek the spotlight. A dating show, racing a horse, riding a bull: these things aren't Hines. But, through his success and sensitivity, he has helped craft an image to the millions of Americans that do not watch football. In his time on the show, he has come off as fun, charming and a nice guy. That will serve him well after his football career ends.
- The End Is Sooner Than We Think: It seems likely that Ward is using the "Dancing with the Stars" gig as a way to expand his "brand." Based on that, it would also be logical to say that Ward sees an end. Maybe not after this season, but sometime soon. His good friend Jerome Bettis was in attendance for the May 23rd episode. Bettis has spent time as a network commentator and makes a ton off endorsements. All that money has been made years since he left Detroit's Ford Field a champion. Ward took note, and probably has taken some advice from Mr. Bettis on how to set himself up for life.
At some point in the evening of May 24th, one of the three couples left will win the Mirrorball Trophy. For Hines Ward, the positive results of being on the show have already happened. I would still bet that the competitor in him wants to be crowned "Dancing with the Stars" King.
Steeler fans across the country certainly have been rooting for him. I mean, losing the Super Bowl and a dance competition in the same year would just be too much to swallow for Steeler Nation.