Steelers fans packed Grant Street in front of the City-County Building in Pittsburgh for a lunchtime rally on Thursday honoring wide receiver Hines Ward and his dancing partner Kym Johnson for winning Dancing With The Stars.
The enthusiastic crowd cheered every time Ward smiled or spoke and were thrilled to see him hoist the Mirror Ball Trophy. Ward told the crowd how you can do anything you put your mind to, something he proved by winning the competition without any dancing experience. Ward also thanked the City of Pittsburgh and all of Steelers nation for their support and voting for them.
"It's amazing. It's really about the fans," said Ward after the rally, which was hosted by the City of Pittsburgh. "For us to win the Mirror Ball Trophy these fans voted each and every Monday night. It's great they came out and showed their support. I think Kym is overwhelmed by it.
"It was great to have the fans come out and show their support today and me to represent the city the best way I could."
Johnson, who is from Australia, was made an honorary Pittsburgh citizen by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and was indeed shocked by the turnout of fans in their black and gold and waving Terrible Towels.
"I said to Hines I hope people turn out. He said they will," said Johnson. "I am totally overwhelmed by it. It's amazing. For the Mayor to do this, I am an honorary citizen of Pittsburgh. It's just incredible what Pittsburgh did for us, helping us win the Mirror Ball and what they did for us each and every week."
Among the fans that voted for the duo were a few who arrived for the rally as early as nine o'clock.
"Anything dealing with the Steelers I am there," said George Muenkzer from Jeannette, Pa. "I watched the show and every week I voted. Hines was really good. I was surprised. I watched the show before that and when I found out he was going to be on there, I was so excited. I knew Steelers nation was going to come through for him."
Sisters Carly and Lucy Baker of Canonsburg, Pa. were both sporting sparkly hats in honor of the Mirror Ball and were thrilled with the opportunity to show Ward their support.
"We have always been Hines Ward fans and rooted for him from the beginning," said Carly Baker. "We really wanted to see him. He was great out there dancing. We voted for him every week as much as we could."
And while the rally was all about honoring Ward and Johnson, Ward made sure that he reached out to help the community as well. Fans were asked to bring non-perishable food donations to benefit the Salvation Army, an agency Ward has long been affiliated with. Anyone who donated was eligible to win a Terrible Towel signed by Ward and Johnson.
"It's a great day for the City of Pittsburgh," said the Salvation Army's Major Mark Mackneer. "We are so grateful that Hines has offered to not only celebrate his victory on Dancing With The Stars but also to think of those less fortunate in the community. During the summertime our food pantries are low. There is a lot of need in Allegheny County. This will go to supplement our food pantry."
Ward and Johnson gave the crowd a few dance moves and then turned the tables when they were judges for three local couples who won a contest to perform a dance for the crowd.
But, none of them scored as high as Ward did in Johnson's book.
"Hines was the best footballer we had on the show," said Johnson. "Just his personality and the way he dedicated himself to the show was amazing. That is gratifying. I was very lucky.
"I am going to come back for a game. I have only seen him on the dance floor. I have to see him play a game."
Ward was asked what teammate he would like to see on the show in the future, and he was quick to answer former running back Jerome Bettis. But he did warn it's not as easy as it looks.
"Signing up I didn't think I could be the Mirror Ball champion," said Ward. "I wasn't worried about Steelers nation showing their support. I was more worried about myself not disappointing her and letting her down each and every Monday as I got out and perform.
"It's tough. It's harder than it looks. I went into it totally disrespecting it. When she was teaching me, we were putting in five, six hours a day and I was like what did I sign up for."