ATHENS, Ga. -- If Hines Ward ever jumps into the coaching profession, he hopes it will be at his alma mater, Georgia.
The recently retired NFL receiver made that abundantly clear during an interview session with reporters Monday at the UGA Golf Course before the celebrity pro-am for the Stadion Classic at UGA.
Ward recently attended several of Georgia’s spring practices to see things from the coaches’ perspective and get a better idea whether he might like to try that side of the sport someday. He also is considering a future in broadcasting, having recently discussed with several networks the possibility of working as an NFL analyst.
Ward discussed his future plans, his college and pro football career and even his time on TV’s ‘Dancing with the Stars’ during the interview. Here’s what he had to say:
On returning to Athens:
HW: It’s great to just come back, just to be back in Athens is always a special feeling when I come back and get a chance to play ball with Mike [Bobo]. I want to see his golf game. I’m happy to be back in Athens.
Where is home base now?
HW: Atlanta. Sandy Springs.
You came to two spring practices here?
HW: Yeah. I actually was here maybe two or three days, I can’t recall. I always said if I ever wanted to get back into coaching, the University of Georgia would probably be my first place, just because I want to give back to my university and I think I have a lot to offer the state of Georgia and to the kids because I’ve been in their shoes before. So for me, I just wanted to show interest just to see and Bobo said, ‘Why don’t you come up, sit in meetings and see how we kind of do things.’ I got a chance to … I always knew Coach [Mark] Richt, but I don’t think he knew me on a personal level, so it was a chance for him to interact with me. I loved everything about it. It’s just the time commitment. I just left football, so that’s something that I’m still deciding. I would love to coach here, there’s no question about it, but I don’t know if I’m ready for that commitment just yet. There’s so much time that you have to put into it. But I love Georgia. Like I said, if I ever do get into coaching, it would definitely be here first.
Do you think you’ll stay around the game in some way?
HW: I will. I’ve got a lot of options, through broadcasting and other things. Broadcasting would probably be the easier for me because I can still talk about it but not play it. But coaching’s just a natural habit for me. I helped Robert Edwards out. He’s the head coach at Greene County, which I think is not too far from here, so he had a camp and I helped with those guys. That’s just a natural thing for me to do. I get a chance to see Bobo and his coaching techniques and stuff and what I’ve learned in the pros, we sat down and just talked football the whole time. I’m excited. Bobo and I, we had some good years here at Georgia and I would love to just help him out any way I possibly can. That’s why I’m up here today.
Is Robert talking to you about helping out during the season?
HW: No. It just depends. I’m helping him, if time permits, I will definitely go and help his football team. I was playing through those guys. They watched me play each and every Sunday and it was kind of like them playing because we all had that special connection. Bobo, I want to see him do well when I watch the University of Georgia and Robert, as well. So now both of those guys are coaching and I want to come out and help them have success.
Have you had specific conversations with people about broadcasting?
HW: I just got back from New York. I went to the draft, met with NBC, ESPN, CBS. We’ll see. It’s great to have options. Fourteen years all with the Steelers and now I’m retired, I’ve got a lot of options on my plate. It’s just a matter of I’ll lay all my options down in front of me and see where I want to begin my next chapter of my life.
Are you thinking studio or game sites?
HW: I have no idea. I haven’t even gotten to that point. I really haven’t gotten to that point, but whatever I decide to do, I’m going to go put the time and commitment into it like I would when I was playing football.
Do you miss playing football?
HW: I miss the competitive nature. There’s nothing that I could do now that would replace the competitive nature that football gives you -- where you can be at the ultimate high two minutes and maybe five seconds later be at the all-time low. I don’t know, for me, looking back, reflecting back, what more can you ask for? I played in three Super Bowls, I won two, Super Bowl MVP, I’ve been to four consecutive Pro Bowls, so for me, I don’t have anything to prove. I’ve gotten everything that any NFL player could ever ask for. ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ I met both presidents -- here in the United States and in Korea -- I’m part of President Obama’s advisory committee for Asian-Americans, so I’ve accomplished a lot so it was easier for me to walk away. I don’t think it would be fair to another organization to put on another uniform and not have that passion and desire that I would with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I played my whole life here at the University of Georgia, played my whole NFL career in Pittsburgh, so for me, wanting to give back to all the places that have given me so much, that’s just a natural thing for me to do. That’s why I say I don’t want to coach in Pittsburgh because I just left Pittsburgh and things didn’t go as planned. And I’m not resentful towards anyone. I’ve had a blessed 14-year career. If guys told me 14 years ago, third-round guy, that I would still be in the league, I think I’ve overachieved a lot of people’s beliefs. Guys like Champ Bailey and all those guys, they’re still seeking that quest of their Super Bowl ring. So so many guys that I’ve played ball with, who haven’t had the chance or career for me playing in three Super Bowls and they’re still searching for that one Super Bowl, so that’s why it was easier for me to make the decision to walk away from the game because what more do I have to prove?
If you decide to go back into coaching, would it have to be UGA?
HW: It would be Georgia. I think it wouldn’t be fair to my university. I’m a Georgia kid. I turned down a lot of school offers to come to Georgia. Georgia wasn’t the primary school who was having a successful year. I turned down Florida State and other schools. Georgia, that’s where it started. Georgia’s my home. That’s where I reside at and for me, it’s only a 50-minute commute from where I live at, so the possibility is there. I just want to see if there was interest from Coach Richt and I wanted him to get to know me on a personal level. But I do have a lot to give back to this university. And Bobo’s here and I want to try to help him out, but like I said, the time commitment, I don’t want to be one foot in and one foot out. If I get into coaching, I want to be all-in and go from there.
What about recruiting?
HW: For me, that’s the thing, I couldn’t really talk to anybody because you don’t want to get into NCAA rules. And recruits, all the recruits, I’m like a magnet to them. They were all coming to me and their families, they voted for me on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ I couldn’t even say anything because I didn’t want to get into any NCAA rules and stuff like that, so what more can a kid ask for? I was a product of this. I came from the state of Georgia and I’ve been where these kids wanted to go. I graduated here. I graduated early, I got my degree, got a chance to play in the NFL, played 14 years, so I have a lot to give back. I have a lot to offer and for me, like when I was talking to Bobo, we have great talent here. It irks me when our great talent goes to the University of Florida and Alabama and stuff like that. We need to keep our top recruits here in the state of Georgia. Georgia’s always been close. We’re on the cusp of doing big things. It’s just one game or one play here and there that, who knows, a player that we lost out of the state of Georgia, that player could probably make a difference and maybe we could win a national title. So the recruiting process, I think that would be easy. I think the parents, a lot of them would recognize me. A lot of them grew up with me, a lot of them watched me on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ and a lot of the fathers have seen me play 14 years at a high level with Pittsburgh, so I think I have a lot to give back to the university.
It looked like you spent a long time at the football building when you were there.
HW: Yeah, I got there early. I was there before Bobo because I didn’t know the timing, how long will it take me and stuff. I left my house at like 6:30 in the morning, so I just wanted to make sure I was on time and stuff like that. For me, right now, a month-and-a-half into retirement, that’s’ why I was here early. Whatever I decide to do, I just want to commit to it and go all-in and go from there.
Are some other assistants walking on eggshells now if they have a bad season?
HW: No, I’m not trying to step on anybody. To be honest, that would be the worst thing. I don’t want to take anyone’s food off their plate. But I’m a Georgia guy, I played 14 years, I played the wide receiver position. So Coach Ball, I’m not trying to step on his toes or anything. I don’t want him sweating or anything, stuff like that. I love the guy, respect him. He coached some great players through here. But I just wanted to see if there was interest and see if I was interested in getting into coaching. Looking at it, the time commitment, it is a lot of time. So it’s something that I just wanted to see behind the scenes. Because when you’re playing, I don’t really care the coaches, what really they do. Give me a gameplan. But there’s a lot of things that go into the gameplan that you have to know about. But like I said, if I ever coach, this would probably be the first opportunity. I would hope that Coach Richt and the president and the AD would welcome me with open arms and just go from there -- if that day ever presented itself. I’m glad to be back at the University of Georgia. That’s why I’m here today. We get to play on this great golf course. When Bubba Watson won, I was cheering in my living room just like I won. So it’s a great thing. You’ve got to have that Georgia pride and I’m full of it.