Cowboys LB Demarcus Ware inspires Texas squad to playoff turnaround

Cameron Smith

Perhaps there are more NFL stars doing good deeds than we think. There are certainly more than we in the mainstream media give credit to, as evidenced in part by yet another piece of earnest civic outreach from an area superstar to a hardworking, under-resourced team in need of a boost.

As supported by the same Duracell "Trust Your Power" campaign that sponsored Matt Forte's initial interaction with Chicago (Ill.) Tilden Career School, Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware met with the Lancaster (Texas) High football team leading into the team's initial state playoff game. The reason for the visit was simple: Lancaster has struggled monumentally in recent playoff encounters.

More specifically, the Tigers have qualified for the playoffs three of the past four years. Heading into the 2012 postseason, they had yet to advance past the second round. Representing a small, working class community outside Dallas, the Tigers are the pride of Lancaster, an under-sized team in terms of both roster and physical stature.

Throughout that period the program has hosted a variety of strong athletes, a handful of whom have gone on to earn spots on collegiate rosters. In short, there is no reason why they shouldn't be competing for a state title.

That was the impetus for Ware's visit. The Cowboys' All-Pro surprised the team's senior core while they were eating lunch at an area barbecue restaurant (where else) and then traveled across the area pitching the team on local residents and business owners, encouraging them to rally behind the team and get everyone to the oncoming playoff game, not that such a pitch is particularly difficult in football-mad Texas.

Then Ware went through practice with the Tigers, who responded to both his physical and emotional calls to step up.

"How do you want to be remembered?" Ware asked the team in a pep talk before the playoff game. "Do you want to be the group to leave a legacy?"

Those exhortations worked. Lancaster exploded out of the gates, eventually blowing out Jacksonville (Texas) High, 34-2. A week later the opponent was tougher but the result was similar, Lancaster ripped previously unbeaten Lucas (Texas) Lovejoy High, 41-16.

And the much ballyhooed matchup against Propser (Texas) High in the regional semifinals? That was a Lancaster win, too, to the tune of a 36-29 final score.

Four years without a spot in a regional semifinal? Not anymore. In 2012, Lancaster is playing for a regional crown.

"I can't be happier than I am right now for our kids and our coaches," Lancaster coach Chris Gilbert told the Dallas Morning News. "We were prepared for everything this week. When it's meant something to this team, this team has answered."

They got some help along the way from a local NFL hero, yet another testament to how sometimes the best stories from the professional ranks are the ones that you don't see on the news.

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