Hines Ward doesn’t have the lithe physique of most dancers. But the Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver and University of Georgia graduate has spent the past three months commanding the “Dancing With the Stars” stage, whether it’s his slinky tango, sexy salsa or infectious jive.
His winning smile, sweet personality and no-holds-barred competitive spirit has helped him land in the finals of the popular ABC show.
Last week, the Atlanta resident answered a few emailed questions of mine in between rehearsals for this week’s finals.
Has this experience been what you expected?
I really didn’t know what to expect when I first signed up for this. I mean I had never danced before in my life and looking back on this experience I still can’t believe that I did all those dances and that I made it to the finals. My goal was to just not be the first one to be voted off. Now to be still standing while watching other great competitors go one by one, it’s a miracle. This show has been amazing and I owe all my success to [dance partner] Kym [Johnson]. She’s a great coach and I love her for it. To be able to conquer my fear of the unknown has been an incredible feeling for me and I am thankful to DWTS for giving me the opportunity to try something I had never ever thought I would do.
What’s been your favorite dance so far?All my dances have been my favorite because they were all new to me. But I would have to say I really enjoyed the Paso Doble because I enjoyed playing the role of a matador.
Do you consider yourself a dancer now?
Haha. I would not go that far. I mean I am a football player. That’s who I am. That’s what I do. I just consider myself blessed to have been able to learn to dance on one of the greatest shows on television. But to say I am a dancer, I don’t know. Kym is a dancer. I guess at this point maybe I am just a good student.
Have your Steeler buds been won over? And how about your UGA friends?
Haha. Considering that they really didn’t give me much of a chance at first, I would say that at this point I may have their respect. I have definitely had their support throughout this competition. Many of my teammates have taken time out of their busy schedules to come watch me dance and it has meant a lot to me to see them in the audience. I mean to have Jerome, Foote, Farrior, Harrison, Max, Fox, Mendenhall, and Troy all come as well as Hall of Famers Franco Harris and Mel Blount all come out to L.A. on their own dime to cheer me on was amazing and I can’t thank them enough for that. And I have definitely gotten a lot of love from Bulldog Nation and a lot of my former Bulldog teammates as well. And the University of Georgia has been supportive too. It’s been a lot of fun.
What were you thinking when Kym went down and landed in the hospital for neck strain last Friday?
Oh man, that was scary. At first, the way she fell, I thought she had broken her neck and I was devastated thinking I could have contributed to that. At that moment I wasn’t thinking about the competition, my dance, or anything. I just wanted Kym to be ok. That’s all I wanted. It was one of those defining moments where you realize that the only thing that matters is human life and the value of your health. It definitely made Kym and me much closer as dance partners and as friends.
Did you ever think you’d cry on TV?
You know you never really plan for those types of moments. They just happen. That night I didn’t want to watch the fall but as I looked up they showed it in slow motion and it made me sick to my stomach. To watch that and then see her work through the pain and still dance was just overwhelming for me. She did that for me and the emotion just got to me. I don’t even know how we got through that dance.
How badly do you want to win this?
It’s down to the finals and I didn’t come all this way to lose. When my marketing team brought this opportunity to me I had to think about it a little. I had never danced before and the thought of doing it in front of all of America was scary. But I always like challenges and I agreed to do the show knowing that I was gonna give it my best shot. I figured it was a great way to stay in football shape and keep my mind off the lockout. Now that I’m in the finals I want to finish what I set out to do and win that Mirror Ball. But I am going up against two great competitors in the finale and if I don’t win it’s still all good. I have had a blast, gotten to meet some incredible people, and made some good friends. So I have already won no matter what happens on Monday.
What’s your quick takes on Chelsea Kane? And Kirstie Alley?
Chelsea and Kirstie are amazing. Chelsea is technically a good dancer and she is a natural in front of the camera. Kirstie has such a big personality and people love her and her story. They both are gonna be hard to beat. It’s all gonna come down to the votes so I hope everyone will vote for me and Kym on Monday night.
“Dancing With the Stars,” ABC, 8 p.m. Monday night (performance show finale for top 3), 9 p.m. Tuesday night (results show finale)
By Rodney Ho, firstname.lastname@example.org, AJCRadioTV blog