So far, so good for Hines Ward and his foray into the world of ballroom dancing. Ward more than held his own in Monday’s series premiere of Dancing With the Stars and is assured to be back for at least another week. Was it a bit weird watching the guy Steelers fans have come to know and love as the league’s most physical wide receiver wearing high-riding tight pants and dancing? Yeah, it was. But there’s no current player as beloved by Steeler Nation as Ward. We’re behind him 100 percent.
Ward joined 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh to talk about his initial reaction to being asked to participate, the great physical exercise that all the practice is, how it’s helping him rehab his knee, how amazingly nervous he was before going on stage, what his teammates had to say to him via text before and after his performance, and how he’s in it to win it now that he’s gotten past the first hurdle.
On his initial reaction when approached to participate on the show:
“You know, I was really just debating about it. It takes a lot of pride to go out there and put your hopes and dreams out there for an audience as far as showcasing your dance skills, which I’ve never danced before. I’ve never done a dance routine, I don’t dance in the end zone if I score a touchdown or anything. My marketing guy came to me and said you know what, I’m going to put you on Dancing with the Stars. And why not? It will be great exposure and a chance to get a broader audience other than this sport. So I hopped on the opportunity. When I got there, I really didn’t know what I signed up for because it looks a lot easier on T.V. than it really is in real life.”
On the great physical exercise that the dancing has been for him:
“It’s five hours a day, six days a week. It’s kind of like being in a sweat box. We’re in there constantly moving around, and you’re doing it for five hours. So it’s like for me, it’s great rehab for my me because that’s what they wanted me to do — start getting some movement in my knee. So you know what, I actually enjoy it. I don’t know what I’m really doing to be honest with you, but when I pick up on it….You should have seen me day one with my dancing to the night of Dancing with the Stars, it’s like night and day. I was just so amazed that I came so far, and to go out there and do it on live television. It’s crazy. It’s almost surreal because I never thought I could dance like that.”
On just how big the butterflies were before he went on stage:
“When the cameras go on, it’s so loud in there I couldn’t even hear the two people that were talking on the microphone. To be honest, I didn’t even know where to look at, so I just tried to go through the routine in my head and go please don’t embarrass myself on national television. So to be honest, people said you look nervous, I was nervous because it’s different in football — you have butterflies when you run out on the field in football. Words can’t describe the feeling you feel when you run out on the field at Heinz Field anyway. But to do something that’s out of element, out of your environment, oh man I had a hot flash right before I went out. My whole body went hot when they said ‘Hines and Kim doing the cha-cha-cha. Literally I almost passed out because I was like I can’t run now, I got to go out there and do it. It was more anxiety because I had been working on that dance for awhile. I wanted to hurry up and get it over with, but at the same time the nervousness of going out there and not messing up, because I got so many texts from my teammates saying ‘don’t go out there and embarrass yourself. ‘ Then to go out there and do the routine, I got hundreds of texts like ‘way to represent, way to represent, you can do it all the way.’ So it was just great to have that support from the guys. Because the locker room, they’re your worst critics. If you come on the plane and you’re dressed wrong, you’re going to hear about it. If you do anything wrong you’re going to hear about it. I was more concerned with the outfit. I knew it was a little high on my butt and stuff like that. But all the guys were cool, they were like ‘you kept it cool.’ So I was happy about it.”
Which of his teammates were texting him immediately after his performance:
You know James [Farrior] did text me after I did the performance, he text me and said if you don’t win this Mirror Ball Dancing with the Stars contest and Mirror Balls, don’t ever talk to me again; you’ve really got a great opportunity to win it, so go win it. And Brett Keisel texted me and said ‘man, I didn’t know you had it in you.’ So it was great to hear from the guys. But having Jerome [Bettis], Franco [Harris] and Mel [Blount] there, those are the key guys of our organization — to have them there along with my mom and her best friends meant a great deal to me. I think it speaks a lot for our organization that they came out from the east coast to the west coast to show their support. So it was just awesome. It was a great night. I was just glad I didn’t mess up on national television, because everyone’s going to watch that first show. You may lose some fans afterwords, but everyone’s going to be like ‘I’m going to see how Hines is going to do on that first show.’ So all eyes was on me and I knew it was so crazy, but I was just happy man just to do it, do the best that I can. And I’ve got a great dance partner. She just told me…because I’m a perfectionist, I want to do something so perfect. So I was more worried about the technical things rather than just going out there and having fun. And right before we went out there she said, ‘don’t worry about the technical stuff, you’re not a ballroom dancer anyway, so don’t over-analyze the dance’. So that’s what I did.”
On the Karate Kid saying he thinks he can take this competition, and if that’s the chip on his shoulder he needs:
“You know what, I was just happy for all the contestants because everybody did well. It’s so different for us because backstage, all the dancers — all the professional dancers — they’re walking around like we would in the locker room, like this is nothing, it’s what we do. But all the celebrities, they were biting their nails, working on their whole dance routine. It was just great to see everybody came out. But now, I think the pressure changes because we had like three weeks to learn that dance, now it’s a new dance every week. So what may be comfortable to somebody, now you have to learn a whole different dance routine in less than a week. So that’s the different between the opening dance and the following week — because the dance depends on how fast you can pick it up and be able to perform it the following Monday. So now I think the competition really begins. It’s great that everybody came out good, but now having to learn a whole new dance routine in less than four or five days is really going to separate a lot of people.”
On the clip that showed him accidentally tackling his partner during rehearsal, and if there was ever a point where he didn’t think he’d be able to succeed:
“You know, it was fine, but she put that one routine in, that one move in, day one. I’m like that’s the most difficult routine ever; she wanted to start the whole dance off with that routine. You saw how well that went — I ended up tackling her. I was like what if I do that on national television. Live. That would ruin the whole thing. I was like maybe we can add that later on down the road, but don’t put that as the first opening act on the first dance night. So we had to throw that away, we had to put that on the shelf.”
On Commissioner Goodell might have fined him for that hit:
“You’re probably right. this whole lockout thing is getting crazy. But you know what, this keeps my mind off football. I’m still getting in shape, I’m having fun, I’m enjoying my offseason. And in the back of my mind, I still know this lockout thing is still looming. It’s still early. Hopefully the closer it gets to training camp, both sides will realize that this is ridiculous, let’s get something solved. But right now it’s just a total mess — free agency, the workers in the building. The owners…it’s hard for owners to want the best out of their players, and now they’re saying you can’t come into our building. It’s so crazy. I don’t understand that.”