ATHENS - Hines Ward wants to coach someday, and he wants to coach at Georgia. The recently-retired receiver and Hall of Fame candidate made that very clear on Monday.
“I always say that if I wanted to get back into coaching, the University of Georgia would probably be my first place,” Ward said. “Just because I want to give back to my university and I feel like I have a lot to offer the state of Georgia, and to the kids. Because I’ve been in their shoes before."
The problem, of course, is Georgia doesn’t have a job to offer Ward right now, and may not in the near future. That’s why he’s exploring a broadcast career; Ward said he spoke at the NFL draft with ESPN, CBS and NBC about a possible gig. (He said he didn’t know if that would be studio or game analysis.)
“We’ll see. It’s great to have options," Ward said. "Fourteen years, all with the Steelers and now I’m retired. I’ve got a lot of options on my plate. I’ll lay all my options down and see where I kind of what to begin the next chapter of my life.”
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Ward was one of the celebrities at Monday’s pro-am for the Stadion Classic, a Nationwide Tour golf event. One of Ward’s playing partners on Monday was Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, reuniting the quarterback-receiver tandem from the 1990s.
It wasn’t the first time Ward had returned to Athens since he retired in March. In fact it wasn’t even the second: He attended two Georgia spring practices, at the invitation of Bobo, after Ward said he wanted to explore being a coach someday.
“I just wanted to show interest and see,” said Warner, who lives in Sandy Springs, an Atlanta suburn. “Bobo said why don’t you come up, sit in meetings, see how we do things. I got a chance to. I always knew coach Richt, but I don’t think he knew me on a personal level. So it gave him a chance to interact with me. I loved everything about it. It’s just the time commitment. It’s something I’m still deciding. I would love to coach here, there’s no doubt about it. But I don’t know if I’m ready for that commitment just yet. Because there’s so much time you have to put in it.
“We sat down and just talked football the whole time. So I’m excited. Bobo and I, we had some good years here at Georgia. I’d love to help him out in any way I can. That’s why I’m up here today.”
Ward also said he was talking to Bobo about the talent in the state and how some of it got away.
“It irks me that 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," Ward said. "Because Georgia’s always been close. We’re on the cusp of doing big things. It’s just one game or one play here or there, who knows, maybe the player that we lost out of the state of Georgia, that player can probably make a difference and maybe we can win a national title.
"The recruiting process (if Ward became a coach), I think would be easy. The parents can recognize me, a lot of them grew up with me. A lot of them watched me on 'Dancing with the Stars.' A lot of the fathers saw me play 14 years at a high level in Pittsburgh. So I think I have a lot to give back to the university.”
Based on all this lobbying, Ward was asked if current UGA assistants, such as receivers coach Tony Ball, should be a bit unnerved. Ward laughed.
“No, I’m not trying to step on anyone … That would be the worst thing. I don’t want to take anyone’s foot food off their plate," Ward said. "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 anything. I love the guy, respect him. He coached some great players through here. But I just wanted to see if there was interest, and I’m interested in getting into coaching.
"But looking at it, the time commitment, it’s a lot of time. So I wanted to see behind the scenes. Because when you’re playing, you don’t really care what the coaches do: Give me a gameplan. But there’s a lot of things that go into the gameplan that you have to know about. But if I ever coached, this would probably be the first opportunity. I would hope coach Richt, the president, the A.D. would welcome me with open arms if the day ever presented itself.”
Last week in Columbus, Richt was asked about Ward perhaps coaching at Georgia. This is what Richt said:
"I think Hines' plan is to do television this year. And then after that, I think he's just gonna try and sit there and say: Do I like television part of it, would I like to coach? I think he has coaching in his blood. I think he would really enjoy that. But I think he's gonna take it by the year to figure out exactly what he wants to do. He did come by and just observe a little bit. Just to see what that lifestyle would be like. Because you might have had a vision of 'Hey I want to be a coach.' And then you've gotta be careful what you ask for. So I think he's wise not to do something real quick. But I do know that he would love to be a member of the staff at Georgia."
More from Ward in tomorrow's papers.