Hines Ward did more than just make his mark on the Steelers in his 14 seasons, finishing with 1,000 career receptions, 12,083 yards and 85 touchdowns while winning Super Bowl XL MVP honors.
But before he put on the black and gold, Ward played football and baseball at Forest Park High School in Georgia and then went on to the University of Georgia where he was a standout at receiver, and also running back and quarterback. He accounted for 4,762 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns in his four years with the Bulldogs, before being drafted by the Steelers in the third round in the 1998 NFL Draft.
It was his time from high school to the pros that has him among the inductees for the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2016.
"It's definitely a big honor, being from the state of Georgia and now going into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame," said Ward. "Growing up a Georgia kid and to be in the Hall of Fame is such a great honor. I am just ecstatic about it. There are players from the state, players that did great things in Georgia, and to be a part of that is truly a blessing."
Ward will be inducted on Feb. 27 in Macon, Georgia along with seven others, including former Atlanta Braves pitcher Chipper Jones, who just so happens to be a Steelers fan.
"It's a big honor to go in with him. I am a big fan of his," said Ward. "I love his professionalism, both on and off the field. The way he went about every day matters. He put his time in to work on his craft. We met years ago and now we get to reunite. To go in together is a real honor."
The induction ceremony is another part of what is a big month for Ward, who will be launching The Hines Ward Show podcast on Feb. 22, something that has him excited to show another side of his personality.
"The opportunity presented itself and I wanted to do it," said Ward. "Playing for a great organization like the Steelers, you know there are Steelers fans all over the world. To get to do my own podcast, give insight into my life and everything that comes with it, and to interact with the celebrities and athletes I have met over the years, I am looking forward to it."
One of Ward's first guests will be actor Joe Manganiello, a Pittsburgh native who bleeds black and gold. He plans on having other celebrity Steelers fans as guests, as well as former coaches and teammates.
"I want to give insight with regular questions, but I want to pick their brains and get the fans interested in who they are as individuals," said Ward. "Things they like to do that people don't always think about. This is more the down to earth stuff from them. Conversing with each other like we were sitting down at a table. This isn't just the X's and O's. I learned a lot about Joe when I talked with him, about him being passionate about the Steelers and fitness. Being able to sit down and have a conversation with him about things that aren't just all football.
"Steelers' fans have a passion for football and know what they are talking about. I want everyone to have fun with it, subscribe and listen to it on the way to work."
Fans can subscribe to the free podcast by visiting www.hineswardshow.com.