DENVER (AP) _ Before playing the game of his life, DeMarcus Ware gave a speech that inspired his Broncos teammates on the eve of their beat-down of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
“It was goosebumps,” Aqib Talib said.
Afterward, the All-Pro cornerback turned to strong safety T.J. Ward and told him it was a shame Ware didn’t deliver that monster motivational talk just before kickoff.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m going to feel it in the morning,” was Ward’s retort, according to Talib, who called it “a hell of a speech. It really touched everybody.”
The easygoing but hard-working Ware spoke about how he’d been playing in the league for 11 years and had yet to reach a Super Bowl.
And how he wasn’t about to let either the opportunity or Brady slip from his grasp.
“You could see everybody was focused, it really touched everybody who was in that meeting,” Talib said. “That’s what D-Ware does. He speaks from his heart and his message was definitely felt.”
Coach Gary Kubiak tapped Ware on Saturday and asked him to deliver the speech “because he knows I’ll get up there and speak in a minute about what’s on my heart,” Ware said.
“The night before the game, I always talk to the guys, but I’ll have one player address the football team before we call it a night,” Kubiak said. “I let DeMarcus do that. I could sit here all day and talk about it, but he was just tremendous for this team. He basically told them how much the opportunity to possibly play for a Super Bowl meant to him and how much it meant for him to be a part of the team.
“It was very powerful.”
Ware went to the weight room to collect his thoughts before talking and there on the wall was the phrase, “Iron Sharpens Iron.”
Ware had his theme.
He would talk about how players stepped up when he and Peyton Manning missed time with injuries, when safeties David Bruton Jr. and Omar Bolden and tackles Ryan Clady and Ty Sambrailo all went on IR.
“That was the grit of the whole season,” Ware said.
“We melted down that metal,” he told the team. “The only way you’re going to make metal hard, is if you get it done.”
Then, he pulled out the first Super Bowl trophy the franchise had ever won, the silver treasure that team owner Pat Bowlen handed to John Elway on Jan. 25, 1998.
“I sat it on the table,” Ware said.
“And it just got really quiet.”
Ware looked around.
“I saw in all the guys’ eyes how they felt, what they felt, because I felt the same way,” Ware said. “From that point, I just knew how important it was to those guys.”
More silence, some exhales.
“It was a big, emotional night,” Ware said, “and the guys carried it over into the game.”
They hit Brady 23 times _ more than he’d been hit in at least a decade _ and 16 times more than Aaron Rodgers was walloped during the worst game of his career, in Denver on Nov. 1.
Sending Peyton Manning back for another shot at the title and Ware to his first Super Bowl was sweet for their teammates.
“I think it’s win one for Peyton, win one for D-Ware,” receiver Demaryius Thomas said. “And it would be nice to get one for everybody else, too.”
Manning missed seven starts with a tear in the plantar fascia near his left heel and Brock Osweiler stepped in and kept the Broncos rolling right along.
Ware also missed a good chunk of the season _ five games and parts of three others _ with a bad back and a balky knee, and Shaq Barrett replaced him and helped keep Denver’s defense atop the NFL.
Ware and Manning watched Denver’s first win over the Patriots, a 30-24 overtime thriller on Nov. 29, from the equipment room adjacent to the Broncos’ lockers. And they spent many an hour together in the trainer’s room getting treatment and talking about making it back for a shot at Super Bowl 50.
“We had to get well. We had to have our full team,” Ware said. “Everybody bought in, helped and pitched in like Shaq when I was hurt and Brock when Peyton was hurt. The other guys are the same way. Now getting all of the guys back and winning the game, you look on the sideline and say, `You know what? We did it.’
“Now you celebrate a little bit, the confetti goes off. You’re the AFC champion, but now, to me, it’s like what have you done for me lately?” Ware said. “I’m looking forward to the next game.”
And his teammates eagerly await his next speech.
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton