Ward staying busy dancing

Hines Ward isn't afraid of hard work. He doesn't mind sweating. He enjoys a challenge.

But even he admits that he had no idea what it would be like to be on the hit reality show "Dancing With The Stars," when he agreed to take part.

"I didn't have a clue what I signed up for," said Ward. "You watch it on television and then you actually get in to the practice and moving around and stuff like that. It's harder than most people think."

Ward has been practicing with his dance partner from the show, Kym Johnson, in Atlanta six days a week, five hours a day with two 30 minute breaks getting prepared for the season premiere of the show on ABC March 21.

"It's very rigorous," said Ward. "For me this is the offseason. It's supposed to be a time to relax and get away, but it's definitely keeping me in shape.

"Every day I am soaking my feet. I have new respect for the ladies who wear high heel shoes. It's a challenge being on the balls of your feet all of the time. But my knee is fine. I just feel soreness from dancing around and moving around the ballroom."

Contestants on the show compete against each other weekly in ballroom dancing, a far cry from anything Ward has done before. And some of the adjustments have been tough.

"The biggest problem I have is posturing, having broad shoulders, keeping your chest forward and tucking things in," said Ward. "I have never had to stand like that. The posturing is something I am working on every day.

"I have to be in dancer mode and not football player and at the same time have fun with it. The times I am having fun, my posture is bad. The time I think about my posture I look like I am not having fun with it. I just have to keep practicing and get to the point where I have fun and correct posture."

Ward is relying heavily on Johnson to guide him through learning the dance routines and he is happy to report he is making progress.

"I am learning the steps," said Ward. "The steps I learned I did it in three or four days. Getting the whole routine down and getting my arms flying a certain way where they look crisp and not sloppy, that is what I am working on now. I keep telling Kym it feels weird, and she said that is good. I have to get used to feeling weird because when I feel weird I am doing the proper technique.

"I told her to push me. I have been pushed my whole life. I told her if she sees something let me know. I just love her energy. She is real upbeat, real positive. Even when I do bad she encourages me. You have to have a rapport, like Ben (Roethlisberger) and I have with quarterback and receiver. It's something you have to establish and have on the dance floor. It has to show through your dance to look well. We have to be synchronized as one."

Ward didn't even get time off for his birthday on March 8, knowing that he still has a lot of work to do.

"It's definitely tougher than football," said Ward. "It was my birthday on Tuesday and I still put in four or five hours of work. Never on my birthday have I done anything like that. But it was good. She said I took 10 steps forward yesterday. I am happy, I am getting better. I still have a little more than a week to learn this dance then learn another dance routine after that because there is no elimination the first week.

"I want to get the dance down so then my personality has to come out, smile and laugh. Certain parts of the dance allow me to be myself, and at other points I have to a dancer. You have to really get in to it. I have to pick and choose when I can be myself."

Ward and Johnson will continue to work in Atlanta until the end of this week and then head to Los Angeles for the final week of preparation before the show kicks off.

"I have to stay out there," said Ward. "The show is on Monday, elimination on Tuesday. If you keep going you have to practice Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday and you are off on Sunday. Then you have dress rehearsal and the next show on Monday."

Survival on the show is based on scores from the judges and viewers votes and Ward is really hoping that Steelers fans tune in and vote, because he knows what a difference they can make and he wants to represent the black and gold well.

"I want to win," said Ward. "The previous football players have done well. I watched those guys. It's about getting on the stage. Kym is always asking me how I handle pressure. This is different than football because I did that my whole life. Going on stage and performing a dance routine in front of millions might be uncomfortable, but that is why we are practicing. The more I get it and the less thinking I am doing the better I can become a dancer. I teach that to the rookies. The less thinking you do on the field, the better your performance. When you feel comfortable you go out and perform at your best. I have to apply that to myself."

One way for Ward to feel comfortable will be wearing the right costume. He has seen some of the costumes contestants have worn in the past, and he wants to make what he wears isn't too far out there.

"I know it's going to be tight pants," said Ward. "There is nothing I can do about that. But I don't want my chest hanging out. My son goes to a great school and I don't want to go to the PTA and have them look at me different. I want to be classic and conservative, but stylish too. I am all about style."

Ward laughs when he says he isn't in the competition to become a ballroom dancer. Instead, it's about being a competitor, having fun and proving he can do it.

"My whole life has been people telling me what I can't do," said Ward. "People are asking can you even dance. I can dance, but nobody in this competition has really had formal ballroom training so we are all starting off at the same level. For me it's me wanting to prove to myself if I can do it or not. It's something new to me and challenging."

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