Whether it was the Steelers or UGA, rooting for Hines Ward is a family tradition

Hines Ward announces his retirement from the Steelers. (Associated Press)

Hines Ward announces his retirement from the Steelers. (Associated Press)

My 18-year-old daughter told me last night she was sad over the retirement of her favorite Pittsburgh Steeler, Hines Ward.

Olivia had become quite a Steelers fan over the past couple of years, primarily because of Ward (and in spite of Ben Roethlisberger), and frequently watched their games on TV. Ward has quite a following among her age group thanks to his stint last year as the charming guy with the infectious smile who won “Dancing With the Stars.”

But my daughter’s Ward fandom is really just carrying on a family tradition that goes back to when she was just a baby and her older brother and Dad were following the exploits of one of the Georgia Bulldogs’ most versatile players ever. My son Bill has a photo of himself posing with Hines on the field at Sanford Stadium before an August scrimmage and on the wall of his old room there’s a picture of Hines in the black britches from that win over Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl. Oh, and then there’s the Hines Ward UGA action figure, too.

There may be debate in NFL circles about whether Ward’s Super Bowl MVP career with the Steelers, where he was known for his hard play and devastating blocks as much as his clutch catches, will be enough to get him into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, what with the glut of wide receivers in line ahead of him, but there’s no doubt at all that he belongs in the pantheon of greatest UGA football players.

A year ago, when he was launching his “Dancing” campaign, I wrote about Hines as the Bulldog who never quit, but it’s worth recapping his Georgia career again: Recruited as a quarterback, he wound up playing running back and receiver as a freshman, then was thrown into the breach by Ray Goff as a sophomore after Mike Bobo was injured, starting at quarterback against Alabama even though he hadn’t practiced with the QBs since the previous year. The results weren’t pretty that first go-round, but when another QB injury necessitated Ward going back behind center later in the season, a legend was born.

Ward was one of UGA's most versatile players. (Associated Press)

Ward was one of UGA's most versatile players. (Associated Press)

Those who saw Ward’s valiant effort against Auburn on a freezing night in Athens will never forget the sight of him doubling over with pain from an injured wrist between plays as he almost pulled off an upset of the Tigers. He did lead the Dogs over Tech and then in the Peach Bowl set school bowl records for pass attempts, completions and yards in a losing effort against Virginia as he threw for 413 yards.

With the arrival of Jim Donnan the next year, Ward moved permanently to wide receiver for his last two seasons, though he frequently lined up in the backfield, too. Typical of his versatility was the win over Florida in 1997 when Ward had seven receptions for 85 yards, ran five times for 21 yards, completed two passes for 27 yards and returned two kickoffs for 70 yards.

All-SEC first team his senior year, Ward racked up 3,870 all-purpose yards, second only to Herschel Walker. Not coincidentally, Ward and Walker are the two Georgia players who’ve been immortalized wearing their UGA uniforms as sports action figures.

Hines’ play in that losing effort against Auburn is still one of my favorite performances by a Georgia athlete.

Chances are the charismatic Ward will wind up with a career in broadcasting of some sort, but I’d love to think he wasn’t just waxing nostalgic when he told 11 Alive not long ago that he’s always dreamed of returning to Athens to coach at UGA. “”I would love that,” he said. “That would be my ultimate dream.”

Ward may be a Steeler forever, as he said Tuesday when he tearfully announced his retirement, but he’ll also always be a shining example of the best that Georgia football has to offer.

BEST OF LUCK, CARLTON

Farewell, Carlton Thomas (Photo by Olivia King)

Farewell, Carlton Thomas (Photo by Olivia King)

I know some people think Carlton Thomas probably had a shove from Mark Richt in deciding to transfer elsewhere for his senior year, but I’m willing to accept at face value Richt and Thomas’ story that it was the player’s own decision.

I frankly was surprised when Richt didn’t kick Thomas off the team last season after his multiple suspensions for rules infractions, but if the Georgia coach had wanted to end Thomas’ time at UGA, it seems to me he would have done so at the end of the fall semester, rather than having him enroll for spring.

No, I think this really was just Thomas and his family looking at the depth chart, with Isaiah Crowell, Richard Samuel and Ken Malcome ahead of him and Keith Marshall likely to pass him as well, and deciding that if he was going to get any meaningful playing time, it would be somewhere else.

The diminutive Thomas has talent that unfortunately wasn’t used to its best advantage at UGA by Bobo, who too often insisted on trying to run him up the middle (invariably on third-and-long) rather than giving him the ball in space on screen passes or throws out into the flat.

Here’s wishing him a successful senior season wherever he winds up.

Got something on your mind concerning UGA athletics or a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Send it to junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

82 comments Add your comment

ARdawg

March 21st, 2012
10:34 am

GO DAWGS!

We run this state

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Old Dawg Fan

March 21st, 2012
10:49 am

Always been a Hines Ward Fan!!! Good Luck to him. I loved watching him play football in Athens!!!!

As far as Carlton Thomas-Good luck to him but really no big deal.

Can I comment about what Crowell has been saying recently-It is one thing to say you want to be in the run for the “Heisman” and you “want to be a leader” but another when you can’t play due to a “hang nail”. I hope I am wrong but I don’t think he has what it takes to be “great” at UGA-then again we have been accepting “less than great” in the last 5 years or so!

Buckeye

March 21st, 2012
10:56 am

Hines was a good dog, great Steeler.

Buckeye

March 21st, 2012
10:57 am

Isaiah, The Annointed One II, for Heisman?

Lordy, did this punk not learn anything last year??

Prediction: Both Annointed One’s go down in November!

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UGA Insider

March 21st, 2012
11:12 am

I wish Thomas would wait until after the GDay game. Who knows by then how many suspensions or injury we will have at the position. Look at all the guys who left from the DB position…if they would have stayed they would be in line to get a ton of PT. This game changes so fast you must be willing to be patient sometimes.

As far as Ward is concerned, he is one of the best and most recognizable UGA players…McGarity needs to immediately offer him a recruiting coordinator job and pay him $250,000/yr. If you hire him today he will absolutely destroy Kirby Smart in this state. Do it now!

SSIgator

March 21st, 2012
11:12 am

“I frankly was surprised when Richt didn’t kick Thomas off the team last season after his multiple suspensions for rules infractions”

Are you serious Bill? You were “surprised” by that? You do realize that da Preacher Man aka Mark Richt is still the coach, so why the surprise?

Dawglasville

March 21st, 2012
11:14 am

Hines was a great Dawg and and Pro Bowl player. I remember seeing him pre-game against the Falcons and he was at mid-field yelling at a Falcon, “I don’t know what you are smiling about #(?). I’m going to bust you in the mouth.” What wide receiver says that?

UGA Insider

March 21st, 2012
11:15 am

By week 6 IC’s name will start to get mentioned with the Heisman. The staff has already said this team will run the ball and play defense. And that is the gameplan.

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Hammerdawg

March 21st, 2012
11:24 am

Lucky for Hines that Mike Bobo was not his OC. The same cannot be said for the C.Thomas, it was
maddening how many times Bobo ran him between the tackles! Mike Bobo is the perfect example of
someone being promoted past there competency level. Bobo cannot game plan before games, he cannot make half time adjustments when needed, and he never gets the most out of his players…
FIRE BOBO!!!!!

pop

March 21st, 2012
11:35 am

the dawg nation wants hines ward bring him home

some sense

March 21st, 2012
11:43 am

Bill,

Come on.

You’ve got to get over the whole Bobo thing. At this point you’re making it sound personal.

He’s not going anywhere, and, let’s be honest, you don’t know enough to keep criticizing him the way you do.

I don’t think a lot of people know who you are or what you do, cetainly not what you’ve done to get thios gig. But using it to bash anybody the way you do certainly dimishes the whole “who you are” thing in many people’s minds.

Radly Dawg

March 21st, 2012
11:48 am

Hines Ward…..will forever, be my favorite Dawg! I have been a Bulldog since 1959….and from a versatility standpoint, Hines did everything that was asked of him and then some. And yes, HINES WARD NEVER QUIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love the Bulldogs and have for a loooooong time…..Kirby Moore, Pat Hodgson, George Patton, Bill Stanfill, Kent Lawrence, Ronnie Jenkins, Brad Johnson, Bruce Yawn, Edgar Chandler, Jake Scott, Andy Johnson, Preston Ridlehuber, Ray Goff, Herschel Walker,Buck Belue, Jimmy Poulos, Lindsay Scott, Frank Ross, Buzzy Rosenberg, Scott Woerner, and the list just goes on and on….but Hines Ward will always be the DAWG who could do it all!!!! Thanks Hines for those glorious days in/at: Grant Field 95 Wrecked Tech!, the Gator Bowll against Florida 97, and On The Plains at Auburn in the 4 Over Time game!!!
Radly Dawg 71

ARdawg

March 21st, 2012
11:49 am

some sense, Bill is actually on the mark concerning Bobo. Certainly, it won’t change anything but, it doesn’t make it any less true. With the size and meat we had on the OL last year, CT should have been more effective between the tackles but, he wasn’r. It was like Bobo’s breaker was kicked out and he couldn’t reset it and see CT in more suitable plays when it didn’t work. Insanity

wrightsville dawg

March 21st, 2012
11:52 am

Why can’t Hines play for the Falcons? He still has some years in him.
And most fans are so pestimistic.
You go in the game, thinkin your’e gonna win.
That’s all you think about is WINNING.
Think about LOSING and you will LOSE.

GTBob

March 21st, 2012
11:53 am

A drunk driver, and one of the dirtiest players in the NFL. Quite the hero you guys have picked out.

Columbus Dawg

March 21st, 2012
11:59 am

Insider, when did the staff say that this team will run the ball and play defense? If this is truly the game plan going in, I for one will be a happy man. Richt must not be blowing smoke when talking about the potential of the available offensive line players that he has available in 2012. I remember vividly how Dooley’s OL’s performed. His lines would tear open holes like ripping open a paper bag. I do not think that the philosophy back then was to “not bend so much as to let defenders in the backfield”, but rather to do your very best to move defensive tackles back, sideways, or whatever it took to open running lanes. The same aggressive line play would also help Murray and the passing game as well. Dooley was not known for having the biggest OL in football, but his linemen were known for their nasty aggressive play, even when pitted against power house teams such as Michigan in Ann Arbor. There is much that Richt could learn from some of Dooley’s style if he would allow his ego to do so. I know that Richt wants to give all the credit of his mentoring to Bobby Bowden, but Bowden knew NOTHING about SEC Football. McGarity should know what I am talking about as he was in Athens when Dooley was. Richt needs to make two things his priority this spring, OL and special teams. It is hard for me to remember UGA ever having this much trouble running the football in my thirty five years of following Georgia Bulldog Football.

ARdawg

March 21st, 2012
12:00 pm

“A drunk driver, and one of the dirtiest players in the NFL. Quite the hero you guys have picked out.”

:D

Your slip is showing GTBob

dougsmugsDOTcom

March 21st, 2012
12:06 pm

I agree about Bobo misusing Carlton Thomas. What is Bobo’s issue against short passes?

Pago Pago DAWG

March 21st, 2012
12:36 pm

Is it just us.. or does it seem that listening to sports talk shows thru-out the South that UGA is hardly ever mentioned! This is sad….

ARdawg

March 21st, 2012
12:45 pm

Pago

Unfortunately, we’ve earn that out of sight out of mind the last several years with less than stellar performance

SSG Desert Dawg

March 21st, 2012
12:56 pm

IC had 850 yards and 5 TDs in what amounted to 6 full games. If he stays on the field, he will be great. KM and TG will keep him fresh and RS can handle the goal line situations (assuming he runs like he did in Jacksonville).

SSIgator

March 21st, 2012
12:57 pm

GTBob -

“A drunk driver, and one of the dirtiest players in the NFL. Quite the hero you guys have picked out”

As Bill says, “he’ll also always be a shining example of the best that Georgia football has to offer”

Enough said.

Columbus Dawg

March 21st, 2012
12:57 pm

UGA has not been mentioned favorably in the media since 2008 when they ranked the Dawgs #1, and they embarrassed themselves early and often that year. The 6-7 record in 2010 did not help either. UGA has the “cautiously optimistic” support of the national media again, and they absolutely do not need to blow it this time around. There are those that put UGA in their preseason favorite lists to win the SEC East in 2012, but not so many that are willing to say that they will prevail in the Dome in December, mostly because of PAST performances of Bama and LSU, BOTH of which will take a step back in 2012. Team chemistry took a hit in Baton Rouge, and Bama simply lost too many proven players on D to dominate like they did in 2011. I predict that they will lose at least two, and maybe even three like they did in 2010 after they lost players to NFL.

AARON MURRAY, TAKE CARE OF THE FOOTBALL!!!!!!

UGA Insider

March 21st, 2012
1:29 pm

Columbus Dawg,

Please note, the staff will not tell fans or the press. I am UGA Insider and that information is what’s being talked amongst the players and coaches.

Simply put, this staff trusts the defense with everything and they are not going to allow AM to throw it 30plus times. Special Teams are going to be better with starters playing there and we will be kicking off from the 35 so that will help as well.

IC is fired up because he knows this is going to be his stage if he wants it. He could have 1600 yards easily with this schedule.

joe

March 21st, 2012
1:30 pm

SSI Gator and GT Bob, You are both better off to be thought fools than to open your mouths and remove all doubt. Ward holds all receiving records for a glamour franchise. The receiving records he broke were set by hall of famers. He has 2 super bowl rings, a super bowl mvp, and pro bowl appearances. Why would anyone consider him for the hall of fame?

b-ham dawg

March 21st, 2012
1:46 pm

@GTBob & SSIgator… no where in this article is flordia or georgia tech mentioned. yet you post garbage day after day. its not that much fun to sit at your computer and hit refresh day after day just to see someone comment on your post. speaks a lot about you 2 as men. get a life losers.

Hines Ward is a DGD. Wish he would come back and coach for us but i think that is a pipe dream. As for Carlton, I’m glad that we finally have the depth we should have always had at tailback. He is smarter than i thought by transferring because he wouldn’t have even sniffed the field this year.

luxomni

March 21st, 2012
1:47 pm

One of the dirtiest players ever. Jimmy Brumbaugh says hey.

Dawglasville

March 21st, 2012
1:52 pm

A wide receiver topping the list of dirtiest players. What is next? A quarterback?

b-ham dawg

March 21st, 2012
1:54 pm

@UGA Insider… It is always georgias goal to run the football and play defense. Now that we have a good D and the personell to run the football it might be an achievable goal. It doesn’t take an insider to know this.

atlnative

March 21st, 2012
1:55 pm

Why has Forest Park, Georgia all but ignor Hines Ward and his accomplishments? He was a high school All American,All SEC football player,and played for the Pittsburgh Steelers winning two Super Bowl rings,and a Super Bowl MVP. Ward is the embodiment of the American Dream:Achieving great success through hard work and determination.If Mr.Ward was white,Clayton County officials would erect a large statue in front of Starr Park in Forest Park.

Felecia Myers

March 21st, 2012
2:06 pm

Hines, you retired with dignity and grace. Keep your chin up and your head held high. I am sure that we will see you soon doing something great. You will always be a part of the Steelers. Wishing you the very best.

WDE

March 21st, 2012
2:17 pm

Oh look its SSIgator…….yawn…. Hines Ward be warned GTBob doesn’t like you…that right there would earn you DGD honors ! Best of luck in the future Hines!

William

March 21st, 2012
2:28 pm

I have been going to UGA football games for many years. In all that time I can truthfully say that Hines Ward has been the most versatile, selfless, and dedicated player I have ever seen. Add to that his great talent, and a great player and role model is made. His red jersey #19 is ripe for retirement for me. What a guy.

ARdawg

March 21st, 2012
2:43 pm

William

Well stated

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

March 21st, 2012
2:57 pm

UGA insider…are you the same insider that said Greene and Dalvin were going to be Leg Humpers!!! I thought so…what a joke.

Love it when Jarret Johnson light up on Hines this year…most of the other players that had been cheap shotted by the guy did as well.

Teach Kirby a lesson …yeah right…..keep running that mouth as usual.

Those of you stupid enough to think Alabama will take a step backward will be in for a sad surprise come football season. This team will be at the same level as the one that took the glass ball home. Ruff Ruff.

really?

March 21st, 2012
3:02 pm

UGA Insider,

You are such a joke. Why do you continue to brag about your inside knowledge when you’ve never been right about anything on this blog?

Just shut up, seriously.

Sincerely,

Everyone who reads any UGA blog

Dawg48

March 21st, 2012
3:38 pm

UGA insider is a joke!

GTBob

March 21st, 2012
3:51 pm

Hines Ward be warned GTBob doesn’t like you

Apparently not many people in the NFL like him either.

KJ

March 21st, 2012
4:15 pm

LOL @ a Gaytor fan talking trash about soft treatment of players by coaches. Amazing how people can be that dumb/self-deluded, but that’s north Florida for you.

Dawglasville

March 21st, 2012
4:32 pm

GTBob – They may not like him but I bet you they respected and feared him. In a world of bounties I don’t think there is anything wrong with a wide receiver keeping the playing field level. Everyone should have to keep their head on a swivel. I bet you few liked Bob Gibson but you didn’t hang over the plate no matter how famous you were.

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

March 21st, 2012
5:04 pm

Why did the judge sentence Sanders Cummings to substance abuse counseling? I thought he was just batting out of order with his G-friend.

dawg fan

March 21st, 2012
5:08 pm

ive got a question… Hines had a stellar career for georgia… a great NFL career… he will be a hall of famer and have his number retired in Pittsburgh. so with that said do you think his number will ever be retired at UGA?

Ed

March 21st, 2012
5:09 pm

My favorite memories of Ward comes from the ‘97 Florida game. He made a clutch grab of a high 3rd and long pass to keep a scoring drive alive after Florida temporarily took momentum of the game. Near the end of the game, he decleated a Gator safety and sprung Robert Edwards for a touchdown. I can still see the UF db suspended in midair. Has any receiver ever hit harder than Ward?

mark

March 21st, 2012
5:12 pm

I made a point to follow his career more so than any other Dawg in the pros. I owed it to him because I walked out in the rain when we trailed Texas Tech 14-0 in 1996. I felt ashamed eating chips and drinking beer at Mexicali grill when he launched himself from the 5, did a complete flip and landed in the endzone for the game winning two point conversion. I could go on and on but I’ll mention two games…That second half against tech in 1995 may be my favorite performance by any Bulldog ever. Thrown in at QB and with a lameduck coach and a broken hand he managed to led us to something like 11 third down conversions in the second half to overcome a 14-0 halftime deficit and led us to victory. Then arguably the greatest block in the history of football took out 8 Gators on one play when he sprang Robert Edwards for the clinching TD in Jacksonville. In my opinion he is our best player in the last 30 years.

Ed

March 21st, 2012
5:25 pm

Hines Ward is considered dirty because his legitimate blocks are devastating, and no one has seen hits like his from a wideout before. He crushes linebackers, safeties, and others who think they are badasses. So that makes him “dirty” I guess.

FLA DAWG

March 21st, 2012
5:33 pm

Hines Ward is a class act despite his recent problem. A great player and a good guy. When I saw him Dancing With The Stars last year I thought he might retire.

He gave Dawg and Steelers Fans alot of excitement and he was dedicated to both.

I wish him well in his retirement. I’m sure we’ll see him on tv doing something.

SSIgator

March 21st, 2012
5:38 pm

Well, it is after 5:00pm so it is now happy hour at a bar near Hines. Easy Hines.