For some athletes, the transition from being on the field to being retired can be an arduous process. For the recently retired Hines Ward, who just finished up a 14 year career with the Pittsburgh Steelers — that is arguably Hall of Fame worthy — that change was made a little easier after he landed a prime gig this week.
Starting next season, Ward will be joining NBC as a football analyst in an attempt to transition his popularity and knowledge to the next level. Already having some TV success under his belt, Ward has a Dancing With The Stars win on his record, not to mention helping NBC with their coverage of last year's Super Bowl.
"I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd be a broadcaster." Ward said in a recent interview. "I was like a stalker with Bob Costas on the (SuperBowl) set."
It was that tenacity, the same that saw Hines overcome negative perceptions early in his playing career, that impressed NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood. Flood, before the Super Bowl show, wasn't sold on Ward as an analyst.
"We hadn't decided.” Flood said. “What happened was we wanted to see how hard he wanted to work at the Friday and Saturday meetings."
What Flood saw is what Steelers fans could have told him in a heartbeat; a guy that throws everything he has into whatever he's doing. It wasn't long until Flood knew that Ward was the guy they were hoping for.
"When you see someone under live fire at the Super Bowl, you know they can handle the job." Flood said.
Flood says Ward will be on-site with Costas for the pregame for Week 1's Pittsburgh-Denver game and also at the Week 3 Pittsburgh-Baltimore game. When Ward isn't at game sites, he'll "occasionally" be in NBC's Sunday night NFL studio.
Also, Hines will appear on Saturday college football studio shows on NBC and NBCSN, as well as appearing twice-weekly on NBCSN's Sports Talk weekday show.
Here's hoping that Ward can just relax and be his engaging self on the screen, which is enough to make a success out of this endeavor. Oh, and hopefully there won't be any devastating hits on Bob Costas during those on-air segments, though some habits are harder to break than others.
James LeBeau is a sports contributor for CraveOnline Sports and you can follow him on Twitter @JleBeau76 or subscribe on Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.
Photo Credit: Greg Ashman/Icon SMI