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Hines Ward has trained extensively for 'Dancing' debut

| Monday, March 21, 2011

Hines Ward has picked a perfect place for the Mirror Ball Trophy -- right between his two Lombardi Trophy replicas.

Now comes the hard part for the Pittsburgh Steelers receiver and neophyte ballroom dancer: beating the other celebrities competing on the 12th season of "Dancing with the Stars," which gets under way tonight on ABC. The two-hour season premier airs at 8 p.m.

Ward has been taking a crash course in ballroom dancing since the beginning of March. Playing the part of the exacting tutor is professional partner Kym Johnson.

Now training camp is over.

"I've watched the show and said to myself, 'I could do that,'" Ward said. "But actually being on the show, it's a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. You've got to worry about posture, footwork and stuff like that."

And he has to do it in front of a national audience, including teammates who will be glued to their televisions.

Not that Ward shies away from the big stage.

He has helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls since the team selected him in the third round of the 1998 NFL Draft. Ward was named MVP of Super Bowl XL after he caught five passes for 123 yards and a touchdown in a 21-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

Ward and the Steelers fell short of winning another Super Bowl in February when they lost, 31-25, to the Green Bay Packers. The sting of that defeat persuaded him to become the latest NFL star to appear on "Dancing with the Stars," as Ward said he wanted to immerse himself in competition.

"I am still sick that we couldn't bring home our third Super Bowl trophy," he said. "This is kind of my own way of representing Steeler Nation to the rest of the country. I want to (win) for the city of Pittsburgh and for all the naysayers who say I can't dance."

Past and current NFL players have fared well on the reality show in which contestants advance based on voting by judges and fans.

Emmitt Smith, the NFL's all-time leading rusher, won the Mirror Ball Trophy in the third season of "Dancing with the Stars." Jerry Rice, Warren Sapp and Woodland Hills High School graduate Jason Taylor have finished second in their respective seasons on the show.

If Ward does not match their strong showings, it won't be for lack of effort or preparation.

He and Johnson have been training five hours a day, six days a week, since they were paired together.

Ward said this latest endeavor requires the same discipline as his day job, and he has been nothing if not an eager student.

"I love that he wants to learn and listen to all that I have to teach him," Johnson said. "I believe Hines has everything it takes to go to the very end."

No matter where he finishes, Ward has taken something away from the experience, having trained in platform shoes with 2-inch heels.

"I definitely have a newfound appreciation for all the women out there who wear high heels," he said.

Additional Information:

Lights, camera, action!

Season 12 of 'Dancing with the Stars' debuts at 8 tonight on ABC and runs through late May. Steelers receiver Hines Ward is vying for the Mirror Ball Trophy. Here are the other celebrity contestants:

• Kirstie Alley, actress

• 'Psycho Mike' Catherwood, talk show host

• Chris Jericho, professional wrestler

• Sugar Ray Leonard, former boxing champion

• Ralph Macchio, actor

• Romeo Miller, rapper/actor

• Petra Nemcova, model

• Chelsea Kane, actress

• Kendra Wilkinson, model/TV personality

• Wendy Williams, talk show host

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