When running back D.J. Ware entered the NFL out of the University of Georgia in 2007, he hoped that all of the highlights he put on tape while in college would be enough to earn him a few snaps with a team.
Unfortunately for Ware, things didn't work out quite the way he hoped. After going undrafted, he signed as a rookie free agent with the Titans in 2007, who waived him a month later. He then landed with the Jets in June 2007, but instead of making the 53-man roster, he ended up on their practice squad where the Giants scooped him up on Dec. 4, 2007.
After spending the next few seasons in relative obscurity, Ware began to get more opportunities to show his skills. In 2011, he was active for the Giants' 16 regular-season and four post-season contests.
He finished the regular season with a career-high 46 carries for 163 yards, and 27 receptions for 170 yards as the team's third-down back.
This year, Ware is hoping to build off those numbers as he'll compete with Da'Rel Scott and Andre Brown for the No. 2 running back spot behind starter Ahmad Bradshaw.
To make sure he's given himself the best possible chance for success, Ware said that he has ratcheted up his offseason preparation given what's at stake.
"In the past, I'd work maybe one or two months after the season ended because I wanted to let my body rest," he said by phone from his home in Georgia.
"This year, I gave myself a couple of weeks before starting cardio and conditioning. I always wanted to get the most amount of rest I could before I went back to work. Now I feel that I need to come in and make sure my body is ready to go when I get up here."
Besides his workouts and studying of film and the playbook, Ware, who's entering the final year of his contract, recognizes the opportunity that lies ahead.
With Brandon Jacobs gone and Ahmad Bradshaw likely sidelined for the entire offseason as he lets his cracked foot heal, Ware will probably come into the OTAs as the top man in the running back rotation, which means he'll get a significant amount of practice snaps.
If he does get those extra snaps, he's confident that he'll be able to show the coaches that there is a lot more he has to offer the football team than they've seen so far.
"There are a few things in my repertoire that I haven't really unleashed yet just because of the fact that I wasn't loose or I didn't feel as comfortable because I was thrown into a random situation," he said. "I didn't get a chance to stay out there for 2-3 series where I could become comfortable and start to wear a defense down."
And if he does get that chance, Ware thinks people will like what they see.
"I haven't shown that I can break three or four tackles and take one 40 or 50 yards to the house," he said. "I haven't shown that I can be that goal-line back. I haven't shown that I can take a pass and turn it into 70 or 80 yards and a score."
At the same time, Ware knows that if he does come out the winner in the race for the No. 2 running back spot, he'll have to continue to show the patience that got him to this point, as in the Giants' rotation, traditionally the No. 2 back comes in every third series and only in certain situations.
"It's just a matter of you digging down deep and just knowing that if you get out there and get rolling, maybe (the coaches) will leave you out there for a while," he said. "I'm a patient guy -- that's what got me to this point -- so I know I can continue to be patient in waiting to see how things play out."