They were members of the same Steelers draft class in 1998, Alan Faneca taken in the first round, while Hines Ward was selected in the third round.
And now they will forever be tied together as Faneca selected Ward as his presenter for the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he is enshrined in August in Canton, Ohio, announcing it on social media on Tuesday morning.
"I was really thinking about a teammate from the beginning," said Faneca in an exclusive interview of selecting Ward. "It's so hard because so many people touch your life and I decided to go with Hines. We came in together, had such a bond, grew together as players and men.
"It's odd to say an offensive lineman and a wide receiver having that bond, but we had a kindred spirit. We pushed each other, leaned on each other, and I think he is the perfect fit for the guy to introduce me.
"We went through so much together. Even before that, coming out of college, we were on a lot of All-America teams together. We made those trips and had that connection before we got to Pittsburgh. It's just special. The whole journey is special, the process, to be able to acknowledge people along the way who were huge parts of your career, it means so much. To be able to acknowledge a guy like Hines who has meant so much to my career and my friendship off the field as well has just been great."
Faneca said he talked to Ward via Facetime to ask him to do the honors, and that Ward was floored by the request.
"He was caught off guard," said Faneca. "I wanted to do it and record it. I wanted to do it over Facetime. He had trouble getting Wi-Fi when I was trying to reach him. I was trying for about 36 hours to reach him. He was like is everything okay, he started to worry. I told him everything was fine. I just needed to talk to him.
"He was surprised. I think it knocked the wind out of him a little bit. He was honored and it was great."
Ward, who is one of the most outgoing, personable and talkative people you will ever come across, was actually left speechless when he got the call from Faneca.
"He was nervous about everything," said Faneca. "He was asking me all kinds of questions. I told him I couldn't answer them I was still trying to answer mine. I only have my questions answered so far. He was over the moon and was definitely floored and had all kinds of questions. I told him I didn't have answers but told him I would get him in touch with someone who could help.
"I don't think he knew what was coming. After he caught his breath after being caught off guard, he was excited and floored.
"He was at a loss for words. Hines is very rarely left without words. That is another fun part of the process. To be able to do that for somebody and leave him speechless. Every part of this process feels more real and special. Those who have gone through the process in the past have told me this is only the beginning. Every time some small things like that happens, it's a moment that is so special. I will never forget it."
In the past, Steelers players have chosen their presenters to help showcase them in their quest to earn Hall of Fame honors themselves. Tony Dungy selected Donnie Shell as his presenter in 2016, and Shell was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020. Lynn Swann selected John Stallworth in 2001, and one year later Stallworth was elected to the Class of 2002.
Ward has been a Hall of Fame semifinalist five times but hasn't gotten over that hurdle yet.
"Hines needs to get in and he will," said Faneca. "It just needs to be sooner rather than later in my opinion. It's part of the process. If it catches someone's eye by him doing this, and they look at him in a different light, I am happy to be able to do that."
Photos of Steelers guard Alan Faneca, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021