After 14 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, endearing himself to the blue collar city with his gritty style of play, Hines Ward is calling it quits.
Ward announced his retirement during a Tuesday news conference at the UPMC Sports Performance Complex in Pittsburgh.
"The city and this organization mean the world to me. So today, as sadly as it feels to me right now, I hope today will be a good day for everybody here," Ward said. "I don't want to play in any other uniform. The black and gold runs deep in me and I will remain a Steeler for life."
Ward ends his career as the Steelers' all-time leading receiver, totaling 1,000 receptions for 12,083 yards with 85 touchdowns. Ward was named the MVP of Super Bowl XL when he caught five passes for 123 yards with a touchdown.
"To my fans and Steeler nation: No words can express how much you mean to me," an emotional Ward said amidst tears. "Today is what you mean to me. Thanks for all the love and support through the OTAs, mini camps, training camps, injuries, Super Bowls and the lockout, just through it all. You guys have given me the best years of my life and I will never forget that. Never."
"Hines has been an integral part of our success since we drafted him in 1998 and we will forever be grateful for what he has helped us achieve," Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a statement at the time of Ward's release. "He has meant so much to this organization, both on and off the field, and we appreciate his efforts over the past 14 years."
Ward said that he had interest from other teams, but in the end he couldn't picture himself playing in another uniform.
"I wouldn't feel right," Ward said. "I've been here for 14 years, so I just couldn't fathom myself putting on another uniform. Because I know the passion that I displayed on the field, it wouldn't be the same."
He added: "I wanted to do whatever I could to remain a Steeler, and today I'm making that happen," Ward added. "So I'm happy with my decision. I don't have any regrets."