Auburn's loss is Troy's gain
Tigers weren't interested, Trojans took him, NFL wants him and the Senior Bowl has him: Meet pass rusher Demarcus Ware
Thursday, December 30, 2004
By TOMMY HICKS
When Demarcus Ware had completed his senior football season at Auburn High School he had hoped to receive a scholarship offer from the university in his hometown. But Auburn wasn't interested in the 190-pound defensive end.
Former Auburn assistant coach Larry Blakeney, head coach at Troy State, was interested, though. Now, Blakeney isn't the only one who is interested in Ware. The list includes several NFL teams.
Having grown to 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds and blessed with outstanding speed, Ware is attracting attention from NFL scouts. College football fans, too, are becoming aware of him, especially those who watched the Troy State-Missouri game on ESPN the second week of the season in which Ware had six tackles, including two for a loss and one sack, in the Trojans' 24-14 upset win. That performance came on the heels of a seven-tackle, three-sack game the previous week in an upset win at Marshall in which he also forced two fumbles, broke up one pass and had two quarterback hurries.
That kind of play -- he was selected Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year -- has earned Ware an invitation to this year's Food World Senior Bowl on Jan. 29 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Fans can get another look at Ware tonight when he leads the Troy State defense against Northern Illinois in the Silicon Valley Football Classic at 10 p.m. on ESPN2.
"Demarcus is one of the best pure pass rushers available in this year's NFL draft," said Steve Hale, Senior Bowl president and CEO. "Demarcus has outstanding speed and quickness and can play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 (defensive) scheme."
NFL teams want to get a look at Ware during Senior Bowl week playing in both alignments, though it seems obvious his value as a professional will be as a pass rusher.
"He could be an outside linebacker (in the NFL) or an end, but regardless he's going to be used to rush the passer," Hale said. "Number one, he'll be very disruptive rushing the passer, but also in his favor is that he's a factor against the running game, even when the play is on the other side of the field."
Ware has been listed among the top pass rushers available in the draft by several magazines and other such lists. ESPN GameDay commentator Kirk Herbstreit, who offered color commentary for the Troy State-Missouri game, said Ware's speed and abilities would make him a solid NFL draft pick. It has been suggested Ware could go as early as the late first round, according to position need by the teams in those slots, and most predictions have him being selected no later than the third round.
"Last year, I was making plays off someone else, really," Ware said, suggesting opposing offenses keyed on other TSU defensive players that allowed him to make plays. "This year, I've had a lot of double-teams, but that just let other guys on the team make plays."
"I have just tried to be the best player I can be and do the best I can do. ... I've watched a lot of films and watched the different ways teams have tried to block me. Sometimes you just have to take on the blocks and fight them off."
Ware has been successful doing just that. In his four seasons, he has collected 27.5 sacks and 57 tackles for a loss. He has also forced 10 fumbles, recovered four fumbles and been in on 198 tackles, 129 of those being solo stops.
"We recruited him out of the shadows of Jordan-Hare Stadium," Blakeney said of Ware. "Then, he was 6-3, 190 and he was playing wide receiver and outside linebacker. We knew even if he didn't grow enough to play down (on the line) we knew he could run and he would be a very good defensive player."
"Everybody knows what kind of player he is, but anyone who has ever met him can tell you right away that he is such a good kid. I have never heard him grumbling or moaning about anything since he's been here. He only knows one way to play, and that's full bore.
"One thing the pros really like about him is he's not just flash, not just speed. He's got some power and he knows how to use it. He's able to stand up an offensive tackle and move him back."
Ware said as soon as tonight's bowl game is over he'll start giving more attention to his pro prospects.
"It really means a lot to be a player from a smaller school and get that kind of attention," Ware said."I hope it means other players from smaller schools will get some attention, too. I know we have some other players here who could play in the pros.
"It's exciting to think about being able to play in the NFL, but really, I'm just concentrating on this bowl game and working as hard as I can to be ready for this game. This bowl game, being the first one for Troy, is impoertant to every guy on this team."