|Birthdate:||March 8, 1976|
|Birthplace:||Forest Park, GA|
|MVP:||Super Bowl XL|
Ward savors NFL championship and MVP award
DETROIT (Feb. 6, 2006)--The smile that seemingly is always a part of Hines Ward's face was never wider or more gleaming than it was last night on the floor of Ford Field.
Ward, the blue-collar tough receiver who is one of the best clutch players on the team, joined the likes of former Steelers Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris and Lynn Swann when he was named MVP of Super Bowl XL following the Steelers' 21-10 victory against Seattle. Ward caught five passes for 123 yards and a touchdown--the touchdown courtesy of a pass from fellow wide receiver Antwaan Randle El--in the Steelers' fifth Super Bowl victory.
"There's no question, I couldn't do this without my teammates," Ward said. "I want to thank my offensive coordinator Ken [Whisenhunt] and my receivers coach Bruce Arians. And Antwaan, that was a hell of a ball, man."
Ward's touchdown came on a gadget play, something of a trademark in the Steelers' playoff run of four consecutive victories. With the Steelers leading, 14-10, on a first-and-10 from the Seattle 43, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger handed the ball to running back Willie Parker, who headed around the left end. He then pitched the ball back to Randle El, an All-Big Ten quarterback in his college days at Indiana. Randle El rolled right and fired the ball about 50 yards to a streaking Ward, who was headed toward the right corner of the end zone behind the Seahawks' secondary. He cradled the ball at the 2 and waltzed into the end zone, scoring with 6:56 remaining and icing the Steelers' victory.
"It was a great play call," Ward said. "We ran the same play against Cleveland earlier this year." In the Nov. 14 game at Heinz Field, Randle El and Ward combined for a 51-yard touchdown in a 34-21 Steelers victory.
Last night, Roethlisberger threw a block to help spring Randle El. "I saw the free safety blitz and blocked him," Roethlisberger said. "I saw Antwaan throw it, and Hines catch it. It was an amazing feeling."
Ward also made a mark on the game in the second quarter with a play he made and one he didn't. With the Steelers down, 3-0, and driving at the Seattle 22, Roethlisberger arched a pass to Ward in the back, right corner of the end zone. Ward went up but the ball squeezed through his fingertips for an incompletion. Three plays later, after pass interference on Steelers tight end Heath Miller and a sack of Roethlisberger by Grant Wistrom, Ward redeemed himself, hauling in a 37-yard strike down the middle from Roethlisberger to the Seahawks' 3. Three plays later, the Steelers scored on Roethlisberger's 1-yard run.
"I dropped the first TD because I was worried about my feet," Ward said. "I usually don't get caught up in drops, I just work to redeem myself. But I made a big play on third down, and it led to the touchdown."
Ward was not the first Steelers wide receiver to become a Super Bowl MVP. That honor belonged to Lynn Swann in Super Bowl X. But Ward knew that making plays under pressure was expected of him. "The great ones don't miss balls in the Super Bowl," he said. "You can't do that and be considered great. "I left some plays out there. As a football player, you want to do well always for your teammates."
But on this night and on the NFL's biggest stage, Ward made the plays when he had to make them. And he will drive off from this Super Bowl with a black 2007 Cadillac Escalade.
Yet another reason to flash that ear-to-ear grin.