SITE: FORD FIELD, DETROIT
DATE: FEB. 5, 2006
CLAIM TO FAME: WARD HAD FIVE CATCHES FOR 123 YARDS AND A TD AND ONE RUSH FOR 18 YARDS EN ROUTE TO EARNING THE SUPER BOWL MVP AWARD.
A LOT OF PEOPLE don't know this, but I almost didn't play in the Super Bowl because of a sprained left shoulder. It happened in practice on the Friday before the game. Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball low, and, since I believe you play like you practice, I wanted to make the catch. But me not being smart, I dived for it, and I landed on my left shoulder.
It was pretty bad. I was in a sling the whole weekend, even on the bus to the game. I had no movement in the shoulder. I couldn't sleep because I couldn't lie on it. All I kept thinking was, I'm not going to make the Super Bowl. I kept asking the doctors, "Do you think it's going to be healed up in time for me to play effectively?" They said that I would have to take a painkilling shot, but that I would probably feel like s—- after the game.
Now, I've seen needles before, but this needle was almost 12 inches long. It was horrifying. But there was no way I was going to miss the Super Bowl, so, on the day of the game, I sucked it up and took this needle down my shoulder. That worked, and I was able to move it around and play.
After my pregame ritual of running around the field, I returned to the locker room, and my adrenaline was flowing so much I ended up vomiting in the locker room. I had never thrown up in my life. I was so nervous just to be in the Super Bowl.
In the second quarter Ben threw an excellent ball in the end zone. It was a play I make in my sleep, but I dropped the ball because I was trying to drag my foot in, trying to make the catch look real pretty unnecessarily. That drop and another one I had stayed on my mind. I remember receivers coach Bruce Arians saying, "You're trying to do too much." I had to do something to redeem myself.
In the fourth quarter, with us leading 14-10, I had my chance. We called our reverse pass, and Antwaan Randle El, who was a quarterback in college, threw a tight spiral. All I had to do was catch it. It could not have been easier. And when I caught it, I knew I was going in for the touchdown, so I just started jumping for joy. I couldn't believe it. To score a touchdown in the Super Bowl was special.
Since I was the MVP, I flew down to Disney World the following day and took Jerome Bettis with me. Right when we got on the plane, the pain in my shoulder started to kick in, and I remembered what the doctors had told me. I leaned over to Jerome and said, "Man, my shoulder is burning." During the whole trip to Disney World, my shoulder was on fire. But you know what? It was worth the burn.
—As told to Gene Menez