And it’s a good damn thing because DeMarcus Ware will deserve all the post-career recognition he’s going to get - from the Ring of Fame to the Hall of Fame and everything in between.
The former outside linebacker for both Dallas and Denver will serve as the coin toss alumni captain and be recognized on field during the break between the first and second quarter.
Ware was drafted by Dallas in 2005 as the 11th overall pick and played nine years before Denver picked up the free agent in 2013 to assist the Broncos in building a monster defense and re-creating Orange Crush 2.0.
No. 94 did that and much more.
In his three seasons with Denver, Ware had 81 tackles - 61 of them solo - and 21.5 sacks that combined for 136.5 lost yards to opponents.
His Pro Football Reference resumé says, “9x Pro Bowl, 4x All Pro, 1x SB Champ.”
It’s thanks to the Broncos, Ware could add that last stat.
The nine-time Pro-Bowler appeared in two Pro Bowls while a Bronco in 2014 and 2015 - on his way to Super Bowl champion in 2016. Ware opened all four postseason contests he appeared in for the Broncos, including his remarkable postseason run that helped Denver win Super Bowl 50 - 10 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 1 FF.
But a bigger impact Ware had on the team is one that cannot be calculated in a stat.
His leadership, mentorship and friendship to his teammates during a season with a lot of ups and downs was an intangible presence that no doubt helped keep the team’s focus and motivation in the right place.
It was no secret from Day 1 that part of Ware’s responsibility as an outside linebacker with the Broncos was to be a mentor to Von Miller, who was just coming off a rough season that saw him serve a suspension for drug violation and then tear his ACL and miss Super Bowl 48.
Ware’s influence saved Miller (his words) and therefore might have saved the team (my words).
“You are legendary! You helped me become the player/person I am today. God brought you into my life when I need you the most! I got to witness greatness, I had an opportunity to see what it takes to be legend! Thanks for everything brother!”
But it wasn’t just on defense that Ware made an impression. When Peyton Manning was benched for seven games due to an injury he didn’t want to admit he had, rehabbing next to Ware gave him a teammate to rely on and a respected vet to gain wisdom from. The two watched the games from the sidelines (or in one case the equipment room) together and formed a bond that a quarterback and his linebackers rarely get the opportunity to form.
“Being a teammate with DeMarcus and being a captain of the team was a real privilege for me. DeMarcus loved football. He loved everything about it. He loved putting the work in, loved helping the young players and of course loved playing on Sundays,” Manning said about his friend last March. “It is no surprise why he was such an outstanding football player. It was because of his work ethic and his real passion for the game. It was an honor to call him a teammate and a friend. I just know he'll be a great success in his post-playing days.”
During his career, Ware appeared in 178 regular-season games (173 starts) and totaled 795 tackles (510 solo), 138.5 sacks (883 yards), three interceptions (44 yards), 20 passes defensed, 35 forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. In eight postseason starts, he recorded 32 tackles (18 solo), 7.5 sacks (66 yards), one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Ware’s 138.5 career sacks puts him at eighth place on the NFL all-time list for quarterback takedowns. His nine Pro Bowls (seven with Dallas, 2006-12; two with Denver, 2014-15) were the most in the NFL among active defensive players at the time of his retirement. He also received first-team All-Pro recognition from the Associated Press on four occasions (2007-09, ’11) in addition to second-team All-Pro honors three times (2006, ’10, ’12).
But you don’t need stats to remember this signature move:
DeMarcus Ware using a fake spin move on Joe Staley remains an all-time gem. pic.twitter.com/MvNCE8hgCM— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurke_SI) March 13, 2017
And while Ware was an absolute menace on the field, he couldn’t have been more kind-hearted off of it.
The Texas native endeared himself to Broncos Country immediately. He was a Broncos Community Champion Award winner in 2014 and was recognized as the recipient of the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award in 2016 given annually to the Bronco who best exemplifies Williams’ enthusiasm, cooperation and honesty while dealing with members of the press.
In pads or not, it will be great to see Ware on the field again Sunday.