2023 Hall of Fame: DeMarcus Ware was one of greatest defensive players in Cowboys history

Ware played 12 seasons for the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos, and will now be forever enshrined in Canton.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame will formally welcome its Class of 2023 on Saturday. This week, Yahoo Sports is highlighting each member of the nine-man class, leading up to the big ceremony.

Before Micah Parsons became the anchor of the Dallas Cowboys' defense, it was DeMarcus Ware who led the unit for "America's Team."

Ware played 12 seasons for the Cowboys and Denver Broncos. Though Ware won his sole Super Bowl with the Broncos, he played his best years as the leader in Dallas. Ware is the Cowboys’ all-time leader in sacks, tackles for loss and forced fumbles. He also ranks ninth in sacks in NFL history with 138.5 for his career.

Athletic virtuoso

Ware grew up in Auburn, Alabama, and as a child he participated in football, basketball, baseball and track. In high school, Ware dominated both sides of the ball where he starred as a wide receiver and linebacker and led his team to an undefeated record in his senior season. At the end of his senior season, Ware was awarded the Most Valuable Wide Receiver and Most Valuable Linebacker award, and would go on to play college football at Troy University.

Ware continued his dominance through his four years at Troy. Ware made the move to defensive line, and continued to shine in his role. As a senior in 2003, he earned the Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year, after leading the conference in sacks (10.5). He led Troy to the Silicon Valley Bowl, the school's first bowl appearance, and finished his college career as Troy’s all-time leader in tackles for loss (55.5) and second all time in sacks (27.5).

FILE -Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware celebrates a touchdown by teammate Miles Austin during the second half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, in East Rutherford, N.J. DeMarcus Ware is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame's class of 2022.(AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
DeMarcus Ware anchored the Dallas defense from 2005-2013. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Punching his ticket to Canton

Heading into the NFL Draft, Ware was a prospect considered in between the defensive end and outside linebacker position, and was drafted as the 11th overall pick in 2005 by the Cowboys.

As a rookie, Ware proved he was more than just hype by stamping his name in the Cowboys' record book. Ware recorded three sacks in a game against the Carolina Panthers, which tied the Cowboys' record for sacks in a game. Ware finished his rookie year with eight sacks, 58 tackles and 14 tackles for loss.

His Hall of Fame campaign took off in 2007, when he made first-team All-Pro for the first time in his career and notched his second straight Pro Bowl selection.

Former Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos star DeMarcus Ware stands with Peyton Manning as they celebrate the Broncos' Super Bowl victory on Feb. 9, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Former Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos star DeMarcus Ware stands with Peyton Manning as they celebrate the Broncos' Super Bowl victory on Feb. 9, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

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Following the 2007 season, Ware built on his already impressive first few seasons and continued his high performance through his career. Ware had his best season the following year, finishing 2008 as the NFL leader in sacks (20), with 27 tackles for loss. He was voted as NFC Defensive Player of the Year, and finished second in voting for AP Defensive Player of the Year, losing to Pittsburgh’s James Harrison.

Securing the hardware

After an efficient stint with the Cowboys, it seemed that the only thing missing from Ware's trophy case was that coveted Lombardi Trophy. After being released by the Cowboys in 2014, Ware signed a three-year, $30 million deal to join the Broncos. During his tenure in Denver, Ware provided a veteran presence for a defense featuring fellow Hall of Fame inductee Champ Bailey, with Peyton Manning taking the reins at quarterback. He was fortunate enough to finish his illustrious career with a Super Bowl win over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, where he recorded two sacks and five total tackles.

In 2017, Ware announced his retirement on social media.

After 12 seasons, Ware finished with four first-team All-Pro selections, three second-team All-Pro selections, nine Pro Bowl honors and he twice led the league in sacks. Ware is also a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade team, and is now being awarded with his much deserved spot in the Hall of Fame after finishing his career as arguably the greatest defender in Cowboys history.