Ward doesn’t dance around his desire to coach at Georgia

semerson@macon.comApril 30, 2012 

ATHENS -- Hines Ward gave up playing football six weeks ago, satisfied that he had done everything he could do at the NFL level. The next step, however, has been a bit harder to decide.

Work for his alma mater, Georgia, as an assistant coach? That would be ideal, if not for the time commitment and the fact the Bulldogs don’t have an open spot.

Just enjoy retirement? Not likely. This is, after all, the same man who during one NFL offseason participated, and won, on the hit TV show “Dancing With The Stars.”

Become a professional football analyst? That actually seems likely, as Ward met during the weekend with CBS, ESPNand NBC.

“We’ll see. It’s great to have options,” said Ward, a former Super Bowl MVP who turned 36 in March. “Fourteen years, all with the Steelers, and now I’m retired. I’ve got a lot of options on my plate. I’ll lay all my options down and see where I kind of want to begin the next chapter of my life.”

Ward was speaking Monday in Athens, where he was playing the pro-am for this weekend’s Stadion Classic, a Nationwide Tour golf event. Ward was paired with his former Georgia quarterback and current offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, and it was not the first time this spring the two have hung out.

Ward is very open about his desire to coach someday. Adamant about it, actually.

“I always say that if I wanted to get back into coaching, the University of Georgia would probably be my first place,” said Ward, who played receiver and quarterback at Georgia from 1994-97. “Just because I want to give back to my university and I feel like I have a lot to offer the state of Georgia and to the kids. Because I’ve been in their shoes before.”

With that in mind, Bobo invited Ward to attend spring practice, hang around the football team and indulge his coaching fix. The experience only whet Ward’s appetite for the job, although the long hours give him pause.

Georgia does have a receivers coach, Tony Ball. And because of NCAA staff restrictions, the school can’t just create a role for Ward. So the idea of Ward joining the staff anytime soon isn’t very realistic.

Still, Ward has the fire for his alma mater. He brought up recruiting, and he expressed concern that Georgia wasn’t keeping all of the state’s best players.

Ward himself played high school football at Forest Park.

“It irks me that 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,” Ward said. “Because Georgia’s always been close. We’re on the cusp of doing big things. It’s just one game or one play here or there, who knows, maybe the player that we lost out of the state of Georgia, that player can probably make a difference and maybe we can win a national title.”

Before Monday’s pro-am, Ward ran into Drew Butler, the former Georgia punter who wanted a quick word: Butler just signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent.

“He had really good things to say about Pittsburgh,” Butler said. “He said to give him (my) number and if I needed any help I could give him a shout.”

The Steelers were the only team Ward ever played for in the NFL.

“From what I’ve read, it’s like SEC football, but up north,” Butler said.

Ward was asked if he would miss playing football -- or does already.

“I miss the competitive nature. There’s nothing that I can do now that can replace the competitive nature that football gives you. Where you can be at the ultimate high in two minutes and maybe five seconds later be at the all-time low,” he said.

“But I don’t know. For me, looking back and reflecting on 14 years, what more can you ask for? I played in three Super Bowls. I won two. Super Bowl MVP. I’ve been to Pro Bowls. Four consecutive Pro Bowls. So for me, I don’t have anything to prove. I’ve gotten anything that any NFL player can ask for. ‘Dancing With The Stars.’ I’ve met two presidents, here in the United States and in 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.”

And now Ward just has to decide what to walk to next.

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