Despite having his chin up as he was released from the Pittsburgh Steelers back on March 1, Hines Ward can no longer fake through what’s lying in his heart.
So rather than slip into a uniform other than the gold and black one he has worn on his back for the past 14 years, Ward announced Tuesday that he was retiring from the NFL altogether.
"I just wouldn't feel right," the 36-year-old said during a tearful press conference. "I can say I'm a Steeler for life and that's the bottom line, that's all I've really ever wanted."
"Thank you [Mr. Rooney] for giving a small-town boy from Forest Park, Ga., a chance," the wide-receiver added, referring to the Steelers president, Art Rooney (actress Rooney Mara's grandfather).
Ahead of his release, the Dancing with the Stars season 12 champion was due to earn $4 million during the upcoming NFL season. Back in 2009, he signed a four-year, $22 million extension with the Steelers, which would have left him with one year left on his deal.
On March 1, Rooney said in an announcement, "We had a conversation today with Hines Ward and informed him that we plan to release him of his contract prior to the start of the 2012 NFL calendar year. Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998 and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve. He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field, and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years. Hines' accomplishments are numerous, and he will always be thought of as one of the all-time great Steelers. We wish him nothing but the best."
Ward's accomplishments include being a four-time Pro Bowl selection and the Steelers' leader in receiving years, plus two Super Bowl rings.