By Teresa Varley
Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward is one of four finalists for the Walter Payton Man of the Year. The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award is the only NFL award that recognizes a player's off-the-field community service as well as on field excellence.
Every NFL team selects their recipient for the award and then finalists were selected. The four finalists will be announced during the NFC Championship game and the winner will be announced during the pre-game telecast of Super Bowl XLII on Fox.
"Being selected as a finalist for the 2007 Walter Payton Man of the Year is a tremendous honor for me and for my foundation," said Ward. "My charitable efforts dually represent the values that my mother instilled in me as a young child and my desire to make the world a better place for all children, in particular those of mixed race who face discrimination in Korea. I hope my nomination raises even more awareness of this cause that is so near and dear to my heart."
Ward created the Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation in 2006 to fight discrimination of biracial children in his native Korea.
For the second year Ward brought a group of Korean kids to Pittsburgh, where they spent time with him and were his guests at a Steelers game.
Ward also hosts the Hoge/Starks/Ward golf outing to benefit the Caring Foundation and has taken part in the NFL's Take a Player to School.
"That's a great thing. I always wanted to be mentioned with Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, but one thing about those guys they were also known off the field for their community work," said Ward. "I have always been a community guy, especially giving back to a community that has given me so much throughout my career. To reach out to the community and be able to bring a smile to someone's face, you couldn't ask for anything more as an NFL player."
The other finalists include Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor, Kansas City Chiefs guard Brian Waters and Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.
The four finalists were chosen by a blue-ribbon panel from the 32 team nominees for the award, all of whom receive a $1,000 donation to the charity of their choice. The four finalists will receive an additional $5,000 donation in their name. The selection panel is comprised of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Pro Football Hall of Famer Anthony Muñox, Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King, football greats Frank Gifford and Jack Kemp, 2006 co-winners Drew Brees and LaDainian Tomlinson and Connie Payton.
The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award will receive the distinctive Gladiator statue, an original art creation by the noted sculptor, Daniel Schwartz. In addition, the player's favorite charity will receive a $25,000 donation in his name.
Hines Ward Bio:Career Highlights
2007: Named to Steelers' 75th Season All-Time Team
2006: Became the team's all-time leader in receptions and yardage, surpassing Hall of Famer John Stallworth
2005: Super Bowl XL MVP
Four-time Pro Bowler (2002-05)
Two-time All-Pro (2003-04)
Three-time team MVP
On the Field
Pro:Ward has started 128 games in his 10-year career with the Steelers and owns the team's all-time record for receptions. He is on pace to become the team's all-time leader in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. A four-time Pro Bowler, Ward is arguably the most complete receiver in the NFL thanks to his "sure" hands and his outstanding blocking ability. He has caught a pass in a team-record 139 straight games and was named MVP of Super Bowl XL after finishing with a game-high 123 receiving yards on five receptions and the game-clinching touchdown. Ward is the only receiver in team history to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving in four straight seasons and was recently named to the Steelers' 75th Season All-Time Team at receiver along with Hall of Famers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann. Ward was a third-round pick out of Georgia.
College: Finished his career ranked second in school history with 144 receptions...had 1,965 career receiving yards to rank third in team history...gained 3,870 all-purpose yards, second only to Herschel Walker (5,749)...was a 1997 All-American choice by The Poor Man's Guide to the NFL Draft..
High School:Earned All-American honors from SuperPrep, Blue Chip Illustrated & USA Today, and added All-State & Super Southern Top 100 honors at Forest Park (Ga.) High...was a two-time Clayton County Offensive Player of the Year...rushed for 1,111 yards and 14 touchdowns and completed 122-of-204 passes for 1,575 yards and 14 scores as a quarterback during his senior season...threw for 3,581 yards and 38 scores and rushed for 2,500 yards and 29 touchdowns during his three-year career.
Off the Field: Hines Ward established the Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation, starting it off with a $1 million donation of his own and then raising another $1.5 million through corporate donations.
The foundation was set up by Ward to help biracial kids in Korea who face discrimination because they are of mixed backgrounds in a country that is not accepting of the youth. It will be independently operated from Pearl S. Buck International, a non-profit organization assisting biracial children. Ward himself is biracial, the offspring of a Korean mother and African American father, and understands the discrimination that similar kids face in Korea. Ward started the foundation as a tribute to his mother, Kim Young-He, who raised him as a single parent.
Ward saw his dream of helping these kids come true when he hosted them in Pittsburgh for a weekend during the 2006 season, something he will do again in 2007. Eight kids were flown into Pittsburgh from Korea through the foundation and they spent time with Ward, enjoying some of the fun activities Pittsburgh has to offer. They were also Ward's guests when the Steelers hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Heinz Field and were able to be on the field pre-game and then watch the Steelers win from a special seating area.
He visited Korea several times during the off-season and spent time visiting with biracial kids and spreading a message of hope to them.
Ward also hosts the Hoge/Starks/Ward golf outing to benefit the Caring Foundation and Caring Team, with teammate Max Starks and former Steelers running back Merril Hoge. Proceeds benefit families in western Pennsylvania by raising funds to provide free healthcare benefits for children and adults and free grief support services for children, adolescents and their families who are struggling with the death of a parent or sibling. He is also involved in the annual Caring Team luncheon, which honors area schools that raise money for the cause.
Ward has participated in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation's annual "Celebrity Chef Night" where he is a guest chef at a local area restaurant. This year, Hines was a guest celebrity chef at one of Pittsburgh's finest sushi restaurants, "Nakama." He was joined by several of Pittsburgh's local television personalities as well as teammates, including close friend, Deshea Townsend.
For the past two years, Ward has been an active and willing participant in the NFL's "Take a Player to School" program. Here, Ward meets the lucky winner of this contest in the local Pittsburgh area at the school where the winner attends. While at school, Hines interacts with all the children, and he has been a hit with both students and faculty each time he goes.