Ward, 36, received a proclamation from the governor and unanimous resolutions from both chambers of the General Assembly, lauding his football accomplishments as well as his volunteer work with several community organizations.
“This is the coolest thing ever,” he said, grinning, as he spoke briefly on the Senate floor.
Ward played 14 seasons for the Steelers, earned two Super Bowl victories, set several team records and was named the team’s most valuable player three times. He also has been active in his native South Korea, forming a foundation for biracial people there and created another group that works with inner-city children in Pittsburgh.
It was Ward’s first visit to the capital city.
“I wanted to represent not only the city of Pittsburgh but the whole state of Pennsylvania,” he said at an afternoon news conference. “I only thought that I had fans in Pittsburgh, but the Steeler Nation is all over. For me, it’s great to be recognized all over the state of Pennsylvania. You guys have given me so much. Today is a big honor.”
During his visit, he chatted with the governor, who recounted the history of his office, and posed for pictures with Gov. Tom Corbett and with legislators.
“He has represented what I think are the finest attributes of a team player and a hard worker,” Corbett said. “Hines has really become part of the fabric of Western Pennsylvania.”
Several lawmakers appeared enamored with Ward and offered personal testimonials about watching Ward’s football success.
“When the Steelers drafted Hines Ward, the glory years of Pittsburgh came back,” said Sen. Jake Corman, R-Centre. “We won a couple more Super Bowls — I shouldn’t say ‘we’ — they’ve won a couple more Super Bowls since then. When you’re a Steelers fan, you feel like it’s ‘we.’ “
“The harder you got hit, the bigger the smile when you got up off the turf,” House Speaker Sam Smith, a Jefferson County Republican, told Ward. “That had to drive the other team nuts.”
Smith offered him an honorary gavel and allowed Ward to bang it on the podium before the chamber returned to considering legislation.