Dear Mr. Ward,
Thanks for the memories. It’s been quite a thrill watching you play football these last 14 years. I noticed you immediately that first year. While others were watching the big plays, I noticed the youngster playing special teams with an unusual passion, like he had something to prove. Prove it you did. No one ever accused you of being the greatest NFL receiver and I think deep down you knew you weren’t. That’s why you worked harder than the ones with more talent. You blocked harder. Went after each pass with more intensity. You also enjoyed the game with that same intensity. Some called you dirty for your vicious blocks, but they were just you taking the finer details of the game to another level. We’ve seen many richly talented athletes waste themselves and amount to nothing. Your desire ensured none of the talent you had would be wasted, but instead would be magnified. It must have driven some of those defensive backs mad putting a hard hit on you only to watch you jump up and flash that ear-to-ear grin of yours. It took the brass and most of the league a few years to notice what some of the rest of us already knew. You weren’t the flashiest, or the fastest. You just got the job done better than the rest. Your success was not that of a gifted receiver, yours was the success of a hard-working football player that loved the game like no other. When the goal line was near, we didn’t see fancy moves or blazing speed, we saw the intense will of a football player who wasn’t going to be denied. The only guy on the team (maybe ever) that came close to rivaling you near the goal line may have been Jerome Bettis. His body was built for that role. Your body wasn’t built for it, but your heart and soul was built for it like no other. The majority of fans will always remember you for that famous smile, but my memory will always be different. Instead of that smile, I will always remember you breaking down in tears because you thought you had let Jerome Bettis down by not helping him get a Super Bowl ring. Of course, we all know how that turned out in the end, but your loyalty to a fellow teammate was very moving and something rarely seen in this day and age. All this being said, I just want to say that I can understand how you want to play some more. Desire like yours is something you just can’t turn off. That is why I am asking you to reconsider finishing your career with another team. I don’t want to see your desire turned off because your body gets broken or won’t perform well enough anymore to keep you on the field, especially in a uniform that isn’t black and gold. Think about being a coach. Keep that desire alive by teaching those young guys all the tricks of the trade that made you what you are, not just a great receiver, but also one of the best Steeler football players ever. You were always more than just a receiver. Keep that passionate flame alive and pass it on.