If I had a nickle for every time I yelled that name over the course of DeMarcus Ware’s career in Dallas, I would have a lot of nickles.
From the moment Ware joined the Dallas Cowboys as a rookie in 2005 up to the final snap he took wearing the star in 2013 he was the embodiment of what it meant to be a member of the Dallas defense. In the minds of the faithful, Ware was the Dallas defense.
Rarely in an sport does one athlete so thoroughly personify his team the way that Ware did for the fans. He transcended the team, although he never tried to do so. To many, myself included, Ware was the Dallas Cowboys.
He took the team by storm as a first-round draft pick out of Troy. During his rookie year Ware was the team co-leader in sacks with eight quarterbacks hauled down to the playing surface. He finished the season with 58 tackles , including 14 for a loss. He also forced three fumbles
Among the honors he earned as a rookie were NFC Defensive Player of the Week during week 16. Ware recorded three sacks and all of his forced fumbles during that contest against the Carolina Panthers. He also added an NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month award for a spectacular October performance.
He was just getting started.
Sophomore slump? Not for the Cowboys linebacker. In his second season Ware recorded 11.5 sacks, which broke the single-season franchise record for sacks by a linebacker. That record had stood for over 20 season. Ware had recorded a total of 73 tackles by the time the season would to a close and his efforts were rewarded with his first trip to the Pro Bowl where he was a starter for the NFC squad. He was also named as a second team All Pro.
DeMarcus Ware also recorded his first touchdown as a professional when he returned a Philadelphia Eagles fumble 69 yards for a score. By this time Ware had fully established his ‘Superman” image in the minds for fans. For good measure he also intercepted Michael Vick and took the ball 41 yards to the house.
In spite of what he had already accomplished, DeMarcus did not fully break out until 2007. He recorded 14 sacks that season, to which he added 27 quarterback pressures and 80 tackles. Ware forced four fumbles that year and once again he achieved Pro Bowl and All Pro status.
Twenty sacks in a season is astronomical, but that was what #94 did in 2008. He also recorded sacks in 10 consecutive contests, which tied a league record held by Simon Fletcher. After leading the league league in sacks, Ware was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Year.
The Pro Bowl once again came calling as did All Pro status. By this time it was clear that Ware was something special, not just in the eyes of Cowboys fans, but also the entire league. For those of us who follow the team, Ware was already being talked about with the likes of Harvey Martin, Too Tall Jones, and Randy White. He was the man in Dallas.
The honors for Ware kept coming as the 2009 season progressed. Two sacks causing fumbles against New Orleans once again earned DeMarcus Defensive Player of the Week honors. That outing came on the heels of his being carted off the field the week before due to a neck injury that had us on the edge of our seats. Not only could opposing lineman not stop Ware, neither could an injury, or so it seemed. The man was unstoppable.
By this time it was a given that Ware would be a participant in the end of season all star contest as well as an All Pro.
The new decade began and the Cowboys outside linebacker chose to mark the occasion by once again leading the National Football League in sacks. He did not reach the 20 sack mark this time around, but his 15.5 sack outing put him in some elite company. Only five other players have ever led the NFL in sacks on multiple occasions.
Ware got close to becoming the only man in professional football history to record a second 20 sack season in 2011. He fell just a half sack short. The total left Ware at 99.5 for his career. It would not take long before he eclipsed the 100 sack mark. In the opening week of the 2012 campaign, Ware hauled Eli Manning to the ground twice. Fans were anticipating the inevitable point where their beloved pass rusher would get over the 20 sack hurdle once more, but it was not to be. DeMarcus played a large portion of the season while being impacted by both a hamstring injury suffered during the preseason and a shoulder injury late in the year.. Regardless, he once again got into double digits with 11.5 sacks
Ware was still named as a second team All Pro and was named to his seventh Pro Bowl team, although surgery would not allow him to participate.
Ware moved from his accustomed outside linebacker role to defensive end during his final year in Dallas thanks to the Cowboys moving from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 under Monte Kiffin. The move allowed Ware to become a full time pass rusher, and fans looked forward to see what #94 was capable of in that role. Sadly, Ware only recorded six sacks in the role. It was the lowest performance of his career in Dallas.
The highlight of the season came early for Ware. In week 3 of the season he passed Harvey Martin to become the all time leading sack man in franchise history.
Once the season wound to a close, Ware became a victim of his own success and the generosity of Jerry Jones. His high salary forced the Dallas front office to make some harsh decisions and Ware was left to finish his career in Denver.
While wearing an orange jersey DeMarcus Ware added an additional 21.5 sacks to his resume, bringing his career mark to 138.5. He added two more trips to the Pro Bowl and finally achieved the one thing that had eluded him in Dallas. After Super Bowl 50, Ware could finally say he was a Super Bowl Champion.
Ware had always been good for the game, and on the biggest night of all the game returned the favor. He had five tackles and two sacks in the contest.
He was limited during his final season in Denver. The unstoppable force finally met up with the enemy that no player can hope to defeat; Father Time. Multiple injury issues limited Ware to ten games and only four sacks in 2016.
Speculation was that Ware would return to Dallas for one last run at another ring, but on March 13th, the greatest pass rusher in Dallas history decided that it was time to begin his life after the game.
As far as his performance on the field is concerned there were few better than DeMarcus Ware. He was named to nine Pro Bowls in 12 seasons. For seven of those seasons Ware was also a first or second team All Pro. He won the Butkus award twice, and he was named to the NFL’s All Decade team for the 2000’s.
In retirement other honors will come Ware’s way. In the not too distant future, Jerry Jones will induct him into the Cowboys Ring of Honor and soon he will undoubtedly join the game’s immortals when he is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
For 12 seasons Ware was among the best the game will ever know. It was not just his contributions as a player that will be remembered. Ware was the consummate professional off of the gridiron as well. His fellow players speak of DeMarcus first as a teammate, not an athlete. Fans speak of the class and dignity that he carried himself with both on and off the field.
There will never be another DeMarcus Ware.