Hines Ward is rightfully an all-time fan favorite for members of Steeler Nation, one of the most hard-nosed skill position players perhaps to ever play the game, and certainly in the past few decades. Many fans would argue that he deserves a place in the Hall of Fame.
For now, he’s happy to have a place on the sideline with his first opportunity to be a head coach when the XFL re-launches in 2023. The 46-year-old spent the 2019-20 seasons as an offensive assistant with the New York Jets and was the wide receivers coach for Florida Atlantic University a year ago.
Ward was out in Mississippi yesterday at an XFL showcase event, and he spoke to Jay Harris on SportsCenter on ESPN yesterday about the opportunity that he has in front of him as a head coach, the lessons he’s learned from his own former coaches, and what he’s looking to get out of his players now that he’s in that chair.
“I’m looking for guys that love to compete, the guys that get jacked up when they make a play, the guys that are hustling around from one drill to another”, he said, which should be no surprise to anybody who watched him play, never smiling brighter than when he laid out a defender with a block.
“Leaders”, he went on, “the guys that want to step up in the front of the line, showcase what they can do. That’s who I want to surround myself with on the football team, just a bunch of guys who love football and love to compete”.
Hines Ward personified competition on the football field, which is perhaps the biggest reason that he was so entirely embraced by fans, with his blue-collar attitude. Not even a training camp holdout during a contract dispute—which he has since said that he regrets—dampened attitudes toward him as an ‘Average Joe’ type of athlete.
As a third-round pick out of Georgia, sans ACL, in 1998, Ward’s competitive spirit was readily identifiable on the practice field, enough to earn him a full-time starting job by year two. Now the Forest Park native is tasked with trying to find, basically, the guys who remind him of himself almost 25 years ago.
“Everybody has talent, but for me, it’s about having the right attitude, learning how to communicate effectively. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask coaches”, he said. “At the end, it’s having a great effort. Every time you’re on the football field, put your best effort, give me all you got and don’t leave anything left in the gas tank. I want guys to be exhausted when they come off this field”.
The XFL is reviving for a second time, now with an ownership group that includes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, with the goal of re-launching in 2023. Former Steelers Hall of Fame cornerback Rod Woodson is also among the head coaches that are a part of the upcoming season, as well as former Steelers defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.