Not as good as I once was but as good once as I ever was.
Who, What . . . and Ware
Cowboys Grab Coveted Pass-Rusher Demarcus Ware
DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer
April 23, 2005, 8:31 PM CDT
IRVING, Texas � Still three months shy of his 23rd birthday, Demarcus Ware says he's too young to remember former defensive end Charles Haley, the pass-rushing anchor of the Cowboys' Super Bowl defenses in the 1990s.
Ware might not know Haley's Hall-of-Fame credentials, but the Cowboys hope their search for Haley's replacement is over.
The Cowboys used their No. 11 overall pick in Saturday's NFL Draft to select Ware, a three-year starter at Troy University whose stock skyrocketed in recent weeks as arguably the best pass-rushing prospect on the board.
"This year a lot of teams are looking towards getting a pass rusher and the Cowboys were looking for that," Ware said. "I thought I could be that guy for them. Now that they picked me I know I'm gonna be that guy for them."
The Cowboys desperately needed an impact defensive player after finishing 26th in sacks per play and total sacks (33) last season. Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson and Maryland linebacker Shawne Merriman also were available at No. 11, but the Cowboys felt Ware was the best "pressure player" for whichever defensive scheme they employ next season.
"We like the pass-rushing ability of Ware," Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "He's done more of it than Derrick. Derrick's an outstanding player, but for us, no matter which scheme we're in, Ware fit it better obviously or we wouldn't have made the decision."
Forgive the Cowboys if they might have been hesitant to use their first draft pick on yet another defensive end. It's happened four times since 1994 with mixed results. Shante Carver, Kavika Pittman and Ebenezer Ekuban didn't pan out, and Greg Ellis has been a solid contributor but not the dynamic force that Haley was from 1992-96.
Ware is a classic "tweener" defensive end/linebacker but is widely regarded as a prospect with rare pass-rushing skills. He dominated lower Division 1-A as a pass-rushing defensive end, finishing his four-year career at Troy with 195 tackles, 57 tackles for loss and 27.5 sacks. His career-high 10.5 sacks in 2004 made him a finalist for the Ted Hendricks award, given to the top defensive end in college football.
Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells likes to draft players who remind him of his productive players from years past. He made two bold comparisons on Saturday.
"I think a little bit like that (No.) 56 guy I had and a little bit like Willie McGinest," said Parcells, referring to Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor and McGinest, an 11-year veteran linebacker for the New England Patriots.
But Ware hasn't always been considered a premier pass-rushing threat. He graduated Auburn (Ala.) High School as a spindly 6-2, 198-pound linebacker/wide receiver and was not offered a scholarship by the big-time Division-I program in his own backyard.
Ware (6-3, 247) grew into a force on the defensive line. He played primarily left end in Troy's 4-3 defense but is vastly undersized for that position at the NFL level. His pass-rushing ability makes him a great fit as a rush linebacker if the Cowboys switch to a 3-4 defense, and he could be effective in third-down situations.
Ware might add enough bulk in an NFL strength training program to develop into a true defensive end. But the Cowboys used their No. 20 pick on LSU's Marcus Spears, a 300-pound, NFL-ready end, meaning Ware likely will be utilized either as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a situational end in a 4-3.
"Ware is going to rush 25 times a ball game, there's no doubt about that," Jones said. "He is not a player that you would want to put down in a 4-3 and take on those tackles play-in, play-out. He's not that player. It would be a misuse of him. On the other hand, Spears is."
Ware, who grew up in a household full of Cowboys fans, said he feared the Cowboys lost interest when the team cancelled a pre-draft meeting with him at Valley Ranch. But those concerns ended when Parcells called Ware before the selection was made.
"He said, 'Are you ready to be a Cowboy,' and my heart just dropped," said Ware, who watched the draft in Auburn with about 50 friends and family members. "I didn't know what to expect when he told me that. I've been living, eating and breathing Cowboys."
Ware's small-college background has raised doubts about whether he can produce at the NFL level. But the Cowboys obviously feel confident they've found a potentially dominant pass rusher, one they haven't seen since Haley temporarily retired in 1996.
And Ware appears ready to quiet any critics. "Coming out of Troy they're like, 'He played at Troy State and he's not an Auburn guy, he's not an Arkansas guy.' But talent is talent. You play to your own ability and I think that a player is a player no matter where you play at." </FONT>
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