Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hines Ward: Behind the Smile

by Brandon Bonsell

Hines Ward has gone through many transformations throughout his professional NFL career. Even a dramatic position switch. He was drafted out of Georgia as a Quarterback, but Pittsburgh had other needs for Hines and moved him to Wide-Receiver. The Steelers liked his toughness and ability to make plays with the football.
He has been Pittsburgh’s go to WR for as long as he has been in the league, but this season he fell behind the speedy trio of Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Emmanuel Sanders. His stats have taken a dramatic hit as well. He has only accumulated 41 receptions, 357 yards and 2 touchdowns; the lowest stats of his career since his rookie season. However, his stats do not diminish his importance to this team. He is still one of the leaders in the locker room, he still delivers devastating blocks, and he still has that smile that resonates with fans and players alike.
But, perhaps Ward’s biggest transformation came off the football field. He was born in Seoul, South Korea to an African American military father and a Korean mother. Hines then moved to Atlanta, Georgia when he was one. A year later his parents divorced and Ward was forced to live with his grandmother in Atlanta because his father convinced the courts that his ex-wife could not raise their child because she couldn’t speak English.
Six years later Hines was reunited with his mother. Ward grew up being ashamed of his race and even his own mother. She struggled with the native language and was not always home because she was busy working multiple jobs to support her son.
Ward had never been to his native-home land since moving away, but that all changed after he won MVP of Super Bowl XL. Hines’ mission was to share his life experiences with multiracial South Korean children. He would meet with groups of children throughout his time in South Korea. Ward called these get-togethers “hope-sharing”. At one particular meeting Ward said to a group of children, “if the country can accept me for who I am and accept me for being a Korean, I’m pretty sure that this country can change and accept you for who you are.”
Before Ward left South Korea he donated $1 million to establish the Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation. The foundations statement according to their website is “to provide educational programs to help children build confidence and maintain a work ethic that will provide them the tools to succeed in life.”
Steelers fans will always remember Hines Ward for his hard-work and his terrific smile, but more importantly the people of his native country will remember him for his efforts in uniting them.
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