DeMarcus Hangs it up


"I'm hanging up my cleats and beginning my journey to my next destination." — DeMarcus Ware.

Doubtless everyone will have a different memory of DeMarcus Ware, who on Monday decided to call it a career. The 34-year-old retires after 12 seasons, nine Pro Bowls and 138.5 sacks. He was a fierce player on the field and a fierce leader off it. He will be missed.

This is the second major retirement for the Denver Broncos in two seasons. Of course, Cowboys fans hold a claim to Ware, too, for his nine incredible seasons there. But it was those last three seasons in Denver that saw Ware claim his most important prize — a Super Bowl ring.

As a life-long Broncos fan, I remember the agony that followed the weeks and months after losing to the Seahawks in embarrassing fashion in Super Bowl XLVIII. It was over from the opening snap, which sailed over Peyton Manning's head. It was a 43-8 route that saw the Seahawks crowned world champions. The Broncos entered that Super Bowl with a historic offense, but had little to show for it in the end.

It grieved John Elway, too. And he began to devise a plan to re-make the Broncos in a different image. That first week of free agency we saw what the image would be, as Ware and Aqib Talib signed, as did TJ Ward, and a fierce new era was born.

After nine unfulfilled seasons, Ware talked about seeing Talib on the plane to Denver and knowing Elway, and this team, were serious about winning a world title. Two years later, in Super Bowl 50, it happened. And Ware, though older and having suffered through injuries during the season, was no bystander to the event.

Von Miller was the Super Bowl MVP, but his running mate Ware made his presence felt. He tallied five tackles and two sacks as the defense dominated Cam Newton and the Panthers. In the aftermath, seeing Peyton and Ware up on the podium, holding the trophy, and at the victory parade brought a smile to my face.

Ware didn't just bring his talent to the Broncos, he brought his leadership. He helped push Miller into the star and leader he has become. And Miller acknowledged as much yesterday, saying:

"Congrats on a hall of fame career! 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!"

Ware was the ultimate pro and teammate. It's hard to imagine him not playing for the Broncos again in the fall, but he's earned the right to step away on his terms — as Manning did last March. And, as with Manning, I have a feeling we'll be seeing him in Canton in five years.

For now, all we can do is say thanks.

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