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At Georgia, Hines Ward had to know every intricacy of the offense; he played quarterback, tailback, wide receiver and even returned punts.
Entering the NFL in 1998 as a third-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ward was full of offensive information, and his pedigree made the transition almost easy.
In 2008, Ward was voted the smartest offensive player (non-quarterback) in a coaches' poll. In 2011, I am crowning him the smartest offensive player (non-quarterback) again.
At 6'0", 205lbs with 4.58 speed, Ward doesn't embody a No. 1 receiver. That is, if you aren't the Pittsburgh Steelers. Playing for a team that was never known for throwing the ball, Ward has been able to amass 954 receptions in his career, which makes him third among active players and eighth all time.
You need to step back and think about how that is possible when he didn't start a game until his second season and then played until 2003 with subpar quarterbacks. What's even more interesting is that he caught over 100 balls only once in his career (112 in 2003).
How could a guy with less than average speed and size be so good? Intelligence. Being at the right place at the right time helped Ward carve a path and a legacy that won't be forgotten.
An intelligent player must use his brain rather than physical talents to read defenders positioning, know when a defense is blitzing and be able to help in blocking (Ward is THE GREATEST blocking WR in the history of the NFL) and know when to go over the middle to take one for the team.
Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis
The center position is one of the most demanding on the field and Saturday has been one of the best at his position. He also has to make adjustments every time Manning adjusts the play.
Needless to say, this man knows the offense just as well as Peyton himself.
Andre Johnson, Houston