(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Alan Faneca said back in March on The Eye Test for Two podcast that Hines Ward "100 percent" deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and he reiterated that belief on Thursday when he had his Pro Football Hall of Fame press conference.
“He will get to Canton. It’s just a matter of time. He is a Hall of Famer, it’s just a matter of when he gets in,” Faneca said.
Ward is the Steelers' all-time leader in receptions (1,000), receiving yards (12,083) and touchdown receptions (85), along with being the MVP of Super Bowl XL, but many believe that he's a borderline Hall of Famer at best.
In April, it was announced that Ward would present Faneca into the Hall of Fame. The two were both drafted by the Steelers in 1998 and were teammates for 10 seasons up until Faneca signed with the Jets in free agency in March of 2008. As teammates, they both made numerous Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl together in the 2005-2006 season.
“The reason I picked Hines was he and I had so many conversations and so many discussions over time and just really bonded over those moments that we grew up together," Faneca said. "We came in together out of college, grew up in the Steelers organization together, bringing the team along to where we were. We just had a really good bond, and that’s where it ended up, man. I just wanted somebody who represented me and the same mentality.”
Two longtime Steelers beat writers, Ed Bouchette of The Athletic and Bob Labriola of Steelers.com, mentioned that Faneca's nomination of Ward to present him into Canton should help Ward's case when it comes to getting into the Hall of Fame himself.
"Alan Faneca chose Hines Ward to present him for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame to boost Ward’s own candidacy, which has not gone anywhere since he became eligible in 2017. There is a precedence to this," Bouchette wrote.
"Lynn Swann wasn’t elected to the Hall until his 14th year on the ballot, 2001. It was the ninth year teammate John Stallworth had been on the ballot and did not make it. Swann not only asked Stallworth to present him, he spent part of his acceptance speech in Canton talking about his fellow wide receiver. In 2002, his 10th year on the ballot, Stallworth was elected. Swann’s gesture helped boost Stallworth’s candidacy and that is what Faneca hopes to do for Ward."
Labriola also sees a potential impact with Faneca's selection of Ward to be his presenter, as there's a long track record of it helping causes for Steelers players who are on the fence of getting into Canton.
"LeBeau was helped in this way when Rod Woodson used a portion of his own acceptance speech to mention him as a worthy candidate. Lynn Swann had John Stallworth present him for induction in 2001, and then Stallworth himself was elected in 2002. Tony Dungy had Donnie Shell present him for induction in 2016, and then Shell was elected in 2020," Labriola wrote.
"These are just some of the recent examples, and it will be interesting to see what kind of boost this might provide for Ward's candidacy, which has found him make the final 25 in every year of his eligibility but never crack the final 15."
If Ward does end up making the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he'll most likely have to wait a long time as there's a log jam of wide receivers that have a case to be in the Hall of Fame, as Brandon Marshall, Torry Holt, Anquan Boldin, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne and Steve Smith have similar numbers to him.