Hines Ward | Do the Dirty Work (Episode 520)

Hines Ward (@mvp86hinesward) is a two-time Super Bowl champion and MVP of Super Bowl XL. He joins us to talk about how, in spite of just turning 40, he’s just getting started.

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
  • By carving out his own niche in the game of football, Hines Ward proved he didn’t have to be the tallest and fastest in the NFL to excel.
  • How can someone in the spotlight stay positive even when faced with bouts of external negativity?
  • In preparation for life post-game, Hines explains how he networked instead of playing Xbox all day like some of his contemporaries.
  • What theme song “inspired” Hines during the swimming part of his Ironman triathlon?
  • And so much more…


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If you’ve accomplished as much as Pittsburgh Steeler Hines Ward by the time you turn 40, you might be tempted to put on the brakes and coast through the rest of life with a sense of pride that you gave it your all. You’ve earned the chance to finally relax.

In episode 520 of The Art of Charm, we talk to two-time Super Bowl champion (and MVP of Super Bowl XL) Hines Ward about how, after a life dedicated to football (and a career three times as long as the average NFL player), he’s just getting started. Super Steelers fan Johnny Dzubak joins us to talk shop.

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When he began his NFL career with the as a rookie with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Hines Ward did what a lot of us do when embarking on a new and exciting adventure: he goofed around and lost focus. “I was just hanging out, going out to the clubs, trying to be that guy,” says Hines. “And being that guy, I wasn’t focused on being that player that I needed to be on the football field.”

Unlike a lot of us, however, he realized early enough that he needed to take his job seriously and get back to the grind that got him into the NFL in the first place. Not being the tallest or fastest guy in the league, he understood the importance of maintaining that focus if he wanted to remain there. But Hines didn’t just want to occupy a spot; he wanted to make a name for himself. Even though he knew it would be an uphill battle, it was an uphill battle he was confident he could win.

“There was a message my high school coach once told me, and I wrote it down. Still to this day, it’s a motto that I live by. I go around and I do a lot of speaking engagements and I try to give the kids the blueprint on how to find success like I did…[that motto is]: ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.'”

“I wasn’t always the most talented guy on my team, but I worked everybody. I was the last guy to leave off the practice field. I was the first guy to get there at school and watch film and do all those things, and it just paid off. So I take that same motto and I apply it to everything that I do to this day.”

Hines began his NFL career as a third-round pick and went on to become a Super Bowl MVP, so he must have done (and continues to do) something right. He put in, as he puts it, “the dirty work” that other guys didn’t want to do. But he also did it with a smile, which became something of a trademark for him — and it wasn’t always appreciated by those who couldn’t keep up with his positivity. He didn’t care.

“I just enjoyed doing what I was doing. I’m living out my dream. I’m getting paid great money to do something I would do for free. I truly enjoy everything about football. I enjoy getting tackled. I enjoy hitting people. I enjoy being in the huddle. I enjoy being on the sidelines. I enjoy running out and seeing the wave of Terrible Towels. Words can’t describe that feeling!”

Over time, Hines got a bit of a reputation for being the NFL’s dirtiest player. He took it as a compliment; at 6 feet tall and 205 pounds, he was going toe-to-toe with the league’s biggest players and doling out more bruises than he was getting. It defied logic, but it gave him a mental advantage over his opponents that balanced out his physical shortcomings.

“They were more worried about me than worrying about the game!” Hines says.

This strategy kept Hines in the game for about three times as long as the average NFL player — 14 years. He admits he was lucky he didn’t sustain any of the major injuries that often put an end to professional athletic careers, and in the hindsight (Hinesight?) of knowing how roughly he played with others, it’s almost a miracle he didn’t.

But now that he’s out of football, Hines doesn’t rest on his laurels. In 2011, he (and partner Kym Johnson) won season 12 of Dancing With the Stars. In 2012, he became a football analyst for NBC Sports. In 2013, he finished the Kona Ironman Triathlon. Along with being a restaurant owner, sports commentator, and appearing in The Dark Knight Rises and on AMC hit show The Walking Dead, Hines also has his own podcast.

But Hines, upon accomplishing his own goals across multiple fields, still wanted to address the teasing and prejudice he and his family had endured as a result of his biracial (Korean and African-American) heritage; he wanted to make a difference in the lives of others who experience the same alienation he felt growing up. He started visiting Korea and, with a million dollars, began the Hines Ward Helping Hands Foundation.

“I had just turned 30,” says Hines. “I had achieved every possible goal that I ever wanted. I made money. I was a pro bowl player. I just won the Super Bowl and I was named MVP…but there was still an empty part…inside of me that my mom and I, we never really embraced our heritage. My mom hated it because of how she was treated like an outcast to the Korean community for marrying an African-American man. I never met my grandmother. I saw my aunt once. My mom sacrificed everything — coming to a country, not knowing the language, with her only son. She left all her family behind to come to the States.

“There’s not enough money to ever repay my mother back for the sacrifices that she made for me growing up as a child.”

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn more about Hines’ difficult childhood, how he’s leveraged his celebrity status to help change the way biracial children are treated in Korea, where Hines got his work ethic, how he began to understand the value of teamwork, what he does to give his own kids the things he didn’t have growing up while keeping them grounded, and lots more.


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AJ Harbinger - author of 1156 posts on The Art of Charm

AJ Harbinger is one of the world’s top relationship development experts. His company, The Art of Charm, is a leading training facility for top performers that want to overcome social anxiety, develop social capital and build relationships of the highest quality. Raised by a single father, AJ felt a strong desire to learn about relationships and the elements that make them successful. However, this interest went largely untapped for many years. Following the path set out for him by his family, AJ studied biology in college and went on to pursue a Ph.D. in Cancer Biology at the University of Michigan. It was at this time that he began to feel immense pressure from the cancer lab he worked in and began to explore other outlets for expression. It was at this point that The Art of Charm Podcast was born.

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