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Hines Ward dreams of returning to UGA

4:53 PM, Feb 5, 2012   |    comments
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Video: More of Hines Ward's interview

Hines Ward, who has a home in Sandy Springs, says he would love to return to the University of Georgia as a coach when his playing days are through.

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. - He has two Super Bowl rings and a victory on Dancing with the Stars, but Hines Ward has a dream of returning to the University of Georgia to coach.

PHOTOS | Tour Hines Ward's home

"I tease Coach Richt if he wants to hire me, hire me," said Ward. "I would love that. That would be my ultimate dream."

11Alive's Jerry Carnes caught up with Ward as the former Georgia Bulldog prepared for his trip to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis where he will work as a pre-game analyst for NBC. The basement of Ward's Sandy Springs home is decorated with autographed jerseys and the awards he's won as an athlete. There's also the trophy he won on Dancing with the Stars.

Also on display is the helmet he wore at Forest Park High School.

"I remember a long time ago at Forest Park I used to practice my autograph," said Ward. "I told my teacher I would be a superstar one day."

Ward got it right. Despite the accolades and fame, he never forgets his Georgia roots.

"I was the guy in the back of the classroom playing with all the girls, throwing paper at people, laughing," said Ward. "I remember Miss Garner my math teacher, she came behind me and pulled my pants up and she said, 'You're going to sit in the front of the room. You're going to be a leader someday. I want you to act like it.'"

For most of his career, Ward has been hounded by the doubters who claimed he was not big enough or fast enough. He used it as motivation to graduate from Forest Park High, to the University of Georgia, to a third round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Before becoming a Steeler, Ward was a fan of the Atlanta Falcons.

"To me that would have been a dream to play at Georgia and get drafted by the Falcons," said Ward. "I was kind of upset they didn't pick me in '98 when they went to the Super Bowl. I would have gone to the Super Bowl my first year. They've never been back and I've played in three Super Bowls, so everything worked out."

Ask him about his most cherished moments and he doesn't point to the trophy case. Instead, he talks about his Helping Hands Foundation that took him and his mother back to the country of his birth in 2006. In South Korea, mixed race children are often the targets of discrimination and taunting. Ward has been working to expose and eliminate the very treatment he experienced while growing up in Georgia.

"I remember in elementary school the black kids didn't want to hang out with me because my mom was Korean and the white kids didn't want to mess with me because I was black," said Ward. "My message is it's okay to be different. I get the best of both worlds. It's nothing to be ashamed about."

Ward was recently by Sports Illustrated as one of the meanest players in the NFL, a distinction he considers an honor.

"I just play till the whistle blows," said Ward. "It's football. I'm going to try to run through you, hit you, pick you up, and come back for the next play."
Off the field, Ward has a cameo in the upcoming movie The Dark Knight Returns.

And there's that win on Dancing with the Stars.

"It was nerve racking," said Ward. It was more nerve racking than football. I was totally out of my element. Guy from Forest Park, Georgia? We do the Dougie. We don't do ballroom dancing."

After fourteen years of bruising hits and off-season surgeries, Ward is starting to think about life after football. He has his own radio show in Pittsburgh and has appeared on the NFL network as an analyst. Broadcasting is a possibility.

But he keeps coming back to the idea of coaching in Athens.

"One day," said Ward. "I don't know when but one day. That would be a blast for me."

For now, he's still got some football to play.

"I'm going to play until they kick me out," said Ward.

"My life is like Forest Gump," he adds. "I can't explain all the great things that have happened to me. I just think God has his hand on me to do great things in this world while I'm here.

"There's not a day I don't reflect on the kid that came out of Forest Park to the man you see before you today," said Ward. "I'm very blessed and thankful for it."

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