There was a time, years ago, when Hines Ward was embarrassed to be seen with his own mother.
Mother and son literally did not speak the same language.
But the passing years and Kim Young’s undying devotion to her only child eventually forged such a bond that Ward, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ leading receiver for six seasons, couldn’t help but grow emotional when talking about her this week in advance of Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Their journey started more than 30 years ago in Seoul, South Korea, where Ward’s father, a 20-year-old African American U.S. serviceman, was serving a tour of duty with the 2nd Infantry Division. Outside a Seoul nightclub one evening, he met Young, a 25-year-old cashier.
A few months later Kim was pregnant. She and Hines Ward Sr. were married and their son, Hines Jr., was born on March 8, 1976.
Little more than a year later, they all came to the U.S., where Ward was assigned to a base in Georgia. But within months the couple had split up and, after Ward was reassigned to Europe, he left the young boy with his mother.
One morning he ducked down in the car seat because he didn’t want anyone to know that the woman driving him to school was his mother.
Later, when he jumped out, he looked back to see her crying.
He opened his eyes to the sacrifices she had made, all for him, and opened his heart. To keep him clothed and fed, she held down three jobs at once, washing dishes at the airport, cleaning hotel rooms and working at a convenience store, a series of backbreaking positions that kept her busy late into the night, though she always seemed to find time to make his lunch and cook his dinner.
“My mom is the reason why I’m here today,” he said. “All the values that she instilled in me, that’s who my mom is: a hard worker, nothing ever given to her, worked her tail off. I am here today because of my mom.”