Hines Ward is back in Athens today after spending some time again around the Georgia football program during spring practice.
The former Super Bowl MVP receiver retired from the Pittsburgh Steelers this year after 14 seasons. He lives in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs.
Ward spent about 10 minutes talking with reporters prior to playing with Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, his friend and former college teammate, in the Celebrity Pro-Am of the Nationwide Stadion Classic at the UGA Golf Course.
“It’s great to come back just to be back, just to be back in Athens is just a special feeling when I come back and get a chance to play ball with Mike,” Ward said. “I want to see his golf game. I’m happy to be back in Athens.”
Ward said he spent two or three spring practices working with the Bulldogs to get a feel behind the scenes what it might be like to be a coach, but has other things on the table.
“I’ve got a lot of options through broadcasting and other things,” Ward said. “Broadcasting would probably be the easier form because I can still talk about it but not play it. Coaching is just a natural habit for me.”
Ward just returned from the NFL draft in New York, where he said he met with NBC, ESPN and CBS about opportunities.
“We’ll see,” Ward said. “It’s great to have options. Fourteen years, all with the Steelers, and now I’m retired. I’ve got a lot of options on my plate. It’s just a matter of I’ll lay all my options down in front of me and see where I want to begin the next chapter of my life.”
Bobo invited him to come to sit in meetings and it gave coach Mark Richt a chance to get know him better on a personal level. He said he left his house at 6:30 a.m. –arriving earlier than Bobo in the morning one day–and left around 7 p.m.
“I loved everything about it, it’s just the time commitment,” said Ward, who is a month and a half into retirement. “I just left football. That’s something that I’m still deciding. I’d love to coach here, there’s no question about it. I don’t know if I’m ready for that commitment just yet because there’s so much time that you have to put in it. I love Georgia. If I ever get into coaching, it would definitely be here first. …I don’t want to be one foot in and one foot out. If I get into coaching I want to be all in.”
Ward participated in a camp recently with former Bulldogs running back Robert Edwards, recently hired as coach at Greene County High School.
“I always said if I wanted to get back into coaching the University of Georgia would probably be my first place just because I want to give back to my university and I think I have a lot to offer to the state of Georgia and the kids because I’ve been in their shoes before,” Ward said. “I think it wouldn’t be fair my university (to coach somewhere else). I’m a Georgia kid. …Georgia’s my home. It’s where I reside at. For me, it’s only 50 minutes commute where I live at. The possibility is there.”
Ward says he’ll miss the competitive nature of playing football, but his career has been about more about winning Super Bowls and making Pro Bowls.
“I’ve gotten anything that any NFL player can ever ask for,” he said. “(Winning) Dancing With The Stars, I met both presidents here in the United States and Korea. I’m part of President Obama’s advisory committee for Asian-Americans. I’ve accomplished a lot so it was easier for me to walk away.”
One thing Ward couldn’t do this spring atGeorgiadue to NCAA rules was help in recruiting, but that recruits couldn’t help but notice him when they were on campus
“All the recruits, I’m like a magnet to them,” Ward said. “They were all coming to me. Their families voted for me on `Dancing With The Stars.’ I couldn’t even say anything because I didn’t want to get any NCAA rules (violations). What more could a kid ask for? I was a product of this. I came from the state of Georgia and I’ve been where these kids want to go. I graduated here, I graduated early, I got my degree. I got a chance to play in the NFL. I played 14 years so I have a lot to give back, I have a lot to offer.”
Ward has talked enough recruiting with Bobo to form some strong opinions.
“We have great talent here,” Ward said. “It irks me that our great talent goes to the University of Florida and Alabama and stuff like that. We need to keep our top recruits here in the state of Georgia.Georgia’s always been close. We’re on the cusp of doing big things. It’s just one game or one play here and there. Who knows? The player that we lost out of the state of Georgia, that one player could probably make a difference and maybe we can win a national title.”
One thing Ward said is Georgia’s current assistant coaches don’t need to worry about him out there as a possible hire.
“I’m not trying to step on anybody,” he said. “To be honest, that would be the worst thing. I don’t want to take anyone’s food off their plate. I’m a Georgia guy, played 14 years, I played the wide receiver position. Coach (Tony) Ball, I’m not trying to step on his toes. I don’t want him sweating or anything. I love the guy, respect him. He coached some great players through here. I just wanted to see if there was interest and see if I was interested in getting into coaching.”
If Ward does get into coaching, it seems like it will come later rather than sooner.