Hines Ward never wanted to play anywhere else. (AP)
Hines Ward had no doubt that he wanted to be a Pittsburgh Steeler through his NFL career, and after 14 great seasons, he'll retire that way. In an emotional Tuesday morning press conference, the team's all-time leading receiver announced that he will be hanging 'em up.
"I have accomplished all I have set out for and more," he said. "I don't want to play in any other uniform. Black and gold runs deep in me, and I will remain a Steeler for life."
The Steelers released Ward on Feb. 29, after a 2011 season in which he caught just 46 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns. "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," Steelers president Art Rooney II said at that time. "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."
Ward kept it together through a recount of his impressive career; he said in retrospect that his only regret was the 2011 lockout. It was more difficult for Ward to keep composed when talking about the Steelers' fans.
"There's only one thing I love more than the game and that's Steeler Nation. It is truly amazing. You guys mean the world to me. This city and this organization mean the world to me. Today I came back to Pittsburgh to grant Steelers Nation one last request, so today I am officially retiring as a Pittsburgh Steeler."
Selected in the third round of the 1998 NFL draft, the Georgia alum leaves the game with all-time franchise marks in receptions (1,000), receiving yards (12,083), receiving touchdowns (85) and 100-yard receiving games (29). He's one of two players in NFL history -- Jerry Rice is the other -- to have at least 1,000 career catches and win multiple Super Bowls. Ward was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XL, was part of four Pro Bowls, and is a member of the Steelers' 75th Season All-Time Team.
As impressive as his stats are, Ward will always be known as the consummate team player -- he may be the best blocking receiver in NFL history, and he never failed to put it on the line when clearing lanes for running backs and protecting quarterbacks so that other receivers could excel.
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