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Hines Ward says ‘Dancing With the Stars’ prep tougher than football

DANCING WITH THE STARS - HINES WARD - A four-time Pro Bowler, three-time Super Bowl participant, two-time Super Bowl Champion and Super Bowl XL MVP, Hines Ward holds virtually every record in Steelers wide receiving history and will go down in the record books as the Steelers' all-time leading wide receiver. He teams up with Season 9 champion KYM JOHNSON, who returns for her ninth season. A star-studded cast filled with celebrities across a variety of genres are set to compete each week on the dance floor in the spectacular two-hour season premiere of "Dancing with the Stars," MONDAY, MARCH 21 (8:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/BOB D'AMICO)

DANCING WITH THE STARS - HINES WARD - A four-time Pro Bowler, three-time Super Bowl participant, two-time Super Bowl Champion and Super Bowl XL MVP, Hines Ward holds virtually every record in Steelers wide receiving history and will go down in the record books as the Steelers' all-time leading wide receiver. He teams up with Season 9 champion KYM JOHNSON, who returns for her ninth season. A star-studded cast filled with celebrities across a variety of genres are set to compete each week on the dance floor in the spectacular two-hour season premiere of "Dancing with the Stars," MONDAY, MARCH 21 (8:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/BOB D'AMICO)For

At the University of Georgia and for 13 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Hines Ward has warded off cornerbacks and caught hundreds of passes on his way to become a decorated two-time Super Bowl champion.

But the wide receiver said prepping for ABC’s popular “Dancing With the Stars,” debuting Mondayfor its 12th incarnation, has been a rougher ride.

“”I’ve never done a dance routine before,” he said in an interview earlier this week from Los Angeles, where he was getting ready for another five-hour rehearsal day with his dance partner Kym Johnson. “Remembering all the steps is a challenge. Kym’s been my quarterback. We have to go out and synchronize and be as one. Reps! Reps! Reps!”

The toughest part, he said, is learning how to stand up straight and perform with good posture. The problem with football is in that game, “leverage is about staying low to the ground.”

As an athlete, Ward has an obvious advantage over most of his competitors, which include former “Karate Kid” star Ralph Macchio, “Cheers” alum Kirstie Alley, and talk-show host Wendy Williams.

Ward is already in shape and is used to intense practice and conditioning. And so far, the track record of NFL players is excellent. Three have finished in the top two: Jerry Rice, Warren Sapp and Emmitt Smith, who won season three.

Ward’s dance partner, Johnson, is also a previous winner, helping Donny Osmond take home the mirror-ball trophy in the fall of 2009.

Johnson, in a blog for OK! Magazine, said Ward’s’ primary weakness is he tends to over-analyze things. “That’s the athlete in him,” she wrote. “He’s very visual and is good at correcting his mistakes.”

Ward acknowledges that he’s a “perfectionist.” “I need to relax a little more,” he said.

Early audition footage released by ABC shows Ward clearly has promise:

For now, he’s purposely avoiding talking to former participants from the NFL like Chad Ochocinco. “I don’t want to hear the horror stories,” he said. “I just want to go in blind and enjoy every moment of it.” But being a good athlete, he has done his fair share of prep work, reviewing tapes from past shows like he does in football.

And his own competitive drive fuels his need to succeed. “I’m always asking her to push me more,” Ward said. “Let me try to catch up. I want a hard routine. I just hope it comes together and we put on a good show.”

He and Johnson spent a couple of weeks prepping at a dance studio in Roswell before moving his home base earlier this month temporarily to Los Angeles, where the show is shot.

Despite his long-time ties to Pittsburgh, he has chosen to live in Atlanta because he grew up here and besides, “I don’t particularly like cold weather.”

Ward’s former University of Georgia football coach Jim Donnan is confident he’ll do well.

“Good chance he will win,” Donnan wrote in an email. “Just like everything else he does, he will be very crowd friendly with his personality and genuine approach. As to how good a dancer he will be, I can’t tell you. End-zone dances are prohibited in college!”

For now, “Dancing With the Stars” is distracting Ward from the NFL lock-out, which is threatening the upcoming football season.

“Things are looking gloomy,” Ward said. “I’m prepared for the worst. Everyone is in limbo. It’s sad to see.”

For him, it comes down to owners’ “greed.”

Ward feels retired players should get more health insurance: “We want to play and we’ll sacrifice something, but we won’t sacrifice our health. We almost feel used.”

On TV
“Dancing With the Stars,” 8 p.m. Monday on ABC for two-hour 12th season debut. No results show week one. First Tuesday results show will be at 9 p.m. Tuesday March 29.

Join my Facebook fan page and Twitter.

By Rodney Ho, rho@ajc.com, AJCRadioTV blog

14 comments Add your comment

Sher Lock

March 18th, 2011
9:54 pm

Owners’ greed? These spoiled players, who have their britches laid out for them, their meals prepared, and their airline tickets arranged, are GREEDY millionaires. Now, a couple of them (including Ward’s arrogant fumbling teammate Rashard Mendenhall) compare their status to “slavery.” Ward needs to dance well, since his best days in the NFL are long behind him. He isn’t even the best receiver on his own team anymore.

justin

March 19th, 2011
8:07 am

@ Sher Lock…..What have you been smoking? You need to do a fact check, seriously!

sam

March 19th, 2011
8:43 am

Get’em he will win!!!!!!!

Sher Lock

March 19th, 2011
9:33 am

With what do you take issue? If you want to engage in debate, you’d do well to specify the alleged inaccuracy. Instead you choose to accuse me of being a dope fiend. Great way to argue!

evan

March 19th, 2011
10:40 am

Sher Lock is partly right. I love Ward, we were at Georgia together, he even sublet my apartment one year (my claim to fame) but come on, health care? I live a comfortable life with a wife, 3 kids and about 55K a year. If I ever made $1mil in one year I would be set for the rest of my life. It’s called financial planning, and it doesn’t involve buying 9 cars and 4 houses during your 7 year NFL career (not refering to Hines here). Players need to be responsible with the huge sums of money the earn. Owners work hard for the NFL thier entire lives, players do so only in thier prime. Owners are entitled to the lions share. But Sher Lock, come on, do you need to take a shot at his ability as a reciever, yes he is “old” but he was great in his prime and still pretty good now. He is what we all want a football player to be on the field.

Howard

March 19th, 2011
10:41 am

I would advise folks to watch two others who have a good chance of dancing well and are very charismatic on camera…maybe more so than Ward…and those two are former boxing champ Sugar Ray leonard and pro wrestler WWE superstar Chris Jericho. As for greed in the NFL…the athletes, last time I looked, didn’t blackmail cities to build new stadiums on a threat of picking up and leaving town…ala Robert Irsay and the Colts.y

Jeff

March 19th, 2011
11:01 am

@ Sherlock.. typical online idiot. Ward is still the money receiver on that football team. As the last play of the year showed you when Mike Wallace didn’t even know what route to run. BTW it was Adrian Peterson of the Vikings who made the ignorant slavery comparison..not Mendenhall.. Check yourself..

DebraG

March 19th, 2011
11:10 am

he median salary in the NFL in 2009 was roughly $770,000. In 2008 it was about $720,000. The Steelers have the highest median salary at $1.1 million, the Packers the lowest at $440,000. The Redskins have the highest payroll at $123 million. The Giants have the lowest at $76 million.
The average (arithmetic mean) NFL salary in 2006 was $1.4 million.
Source: http://asp.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/salaries/mediansalaries.aspx?year=2007
Given that the average length of a Gridiron player’s career in NFL is 3 years, average Green Bay salary of $440,000 means that after tax they earn less than $1 million total career earnings hampered by the fact there is nowhere else to play as Leagues have folded.
League minimums for years 1994, 1995, 1996.
$108,000, $149,000, $196,000. No guaranteed contracts.

Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_the_average_salary_of_an_NFL_football_player#ixzz1H3fwyKOT

The above stats do not address the numerous concussions and brain injuries endured by players. They, along with everyone else in the world, deserve high quality, lifelong health care! They perform for us on the field, risking their health, and sometimes their very lives. Why shouldn’t we ensure that they are well provided for when they can no longer perform? Get off that mean-spirited, selfish bandwagon. How about a little love, mercy and generosity?

Da Truth

March 19th, 2011
12:25 pm

Sherlock speaks for alot of the population. I hear it all the time. I’m a father of two and I make less than Evan and I am happily satisfied. What wearies me is people that Say things like… “If I made half of what athletes make or If I made millions”, etc… Well guess what everyone – we don’t – we make what we make and if our boss was making millions off of us and we wanted more of a comission – there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If owners want to treat players like employers – then so be it – then stop using players likeness/images/photos, etc..to promote their product. It is not like the fashion industry or automobile industry or any other industry, where the product is independent of the employer. In football/sports – the product IS the ATHLETE, because the athlete makes up the team! The same way you buy a ticket and support a teram, because you like a particular player. We cannot relate to professional athletes and their world, so stop trying to! The same way we get offended when athletes say things like, “I’m just going to work” or “I just want to support my family” – those statements offend us – because they are trying to relate to OUR WORLD and it is a bit offensive. The same way we sound when we say stupid things like…”If I made a million dollars, I would be happy” It’s all about perspective. I guess the same way we offend someone in a 3rd world country, when we say that we’re trying to survive on $15 dollars an hour!! That is probably offensive to them! I say…let these players make as much as they possibly can and let owners make as much as they can, but in all their getting….just be respectful and honor people that make you successful!!!

Ted

March 19th, 2011
2:10 pm

No one cares about Hines Ward….Enough already. ABC needs to cancel Dancing with the Stars.

OldTimer

March 19th, 2011
9:40 pm

Hines Ward is a good man.

mmmmmm

March 21st, 2011
2:21 pm

In 1983 the minimum was only 40,000 per year. More than 1/2 of the NFL players do not make it to the 3 year minimum that they can get a retirement. That is why they are striking. I know one player that broke his neck playing in 1980 after 8 years playing for a team. That team tried to trade him to another team after his neck was fused. Then when he couldn’t pass the physical of the new team, they tried to get out of paying him. It took him years to get a settlement of only $80K a year for 10 years only for a broken neck. He was one of the lucky ones he had a college degree in a real major. He came from a family that beleived in education.

Have you seen that most colleges are not graduating their atheletes who play on their NCAA I Football and Basketball teams. So what are these guys going to do. They have Stock brokers and Agents ripping them off. Look at the Robinson Humphries Stock Brooker who went to prison a few years back for ripping them off.

Praveen

March 21st, 2011
3:11 pm

When Ward talks about health insurance, it’s not that he personally cannot afford it. But all players do not make enough money to pay for the catastrophic health costs that some retired players needed as a result of the pounding their body takes playing a game that makes money for the owners who do not risk anything. Seriously, even an incompetent guy like Mike Brown makes millions despite no qualification other than inheritance to run a team.

Sher needs to study up on what past players have gone through before making kneejerk rich athlete bashing statements.

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