February 6, 2006

Wheel turns full circle for Super Bowl MVP Ward

By Steve Keating

DETROIT (Reuters) - Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines
Ward began the season as a holdout but ended it on Monday
holding the Super Bowl MVP award in one hand and the keys to a
new luxury car in the other.

Ward made the big plays when it counted on Sunday, hauling
in five passes for 123 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown
reception from wide receiver Antwaan Randle El that clinched
the Steelers a 21-10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

The MVP award capped an eventful year for Ward, who began
the season thinking he might have to leave the only team he had
ever played on.

The Steelers' all-time leading receiver with 574
receptions, Ward staged a 10-day holdout at the start of
training camp before agreeing to a four-year $27.5 million
contract extension that could see him finish his career in a
Pittsburgh uniform.

"It's something that's part of football, it happens," a
bleary-eyed Ward told reporters during the MVP media conference
on Monday where he selected his new car that goes along with
the honor. "It was a road I had to come across.

"I do remember after I did report back, the last thing I
said was, 'let's go win a Super Bowl'.

"It's kind of amazing how we ended up at this point,
considering how we started.

"Everything worked out for the best and I get the
opportunity to be able to retire as a Steeler. I couldn't
picture myself in another uniform.

"To get the extension, to have a great year like we had, to
finish it off with the Super Bowl, you couldn't ask for a
better year than this."

The third-round pick in the 1998 NFL draft, Ward becomes
the fourth Steeler to win Super Bowl MVP honors after Franco
Harris (1975), Lynn Swann (1976) and Terry Bradshaw (1979 and

Swann was the first wide receiver to win a Super Bowl MVP
in Pittsburgh's 21-17 win over Dallas in January 1975.

"I remember people always comparing me to Lynn Swann and
John Stallworth," said Ward.

"That was a great honor but they had something I didn't
have and that was a Super Bowl ring. They kind of made names
for themselves in the Super Bowl.

"So me winning this honor, I kind of feel like I'm in their
class now.

"My production as far as stats-wise dropped off this season
but my coaches told me I was having one of my better years even
without going to the Pro Bowl.

"But this is what it's all about.

"To reach the highest level of competition and do it on the
grandest stage of all, I'll take that over a Pro Bowl any day."