Introducing the 2005 Class: Derron Ware

Each of the members of ASU's latest recruiting class probably has an interesting story or two relating to their recruitment. However, suffice to say that none of those players will be able to top the recruiting journey that Michigan State transfer Derron Ware went through. DevilsDigest sat down with the safety and talked about the turbulent road he took to eventually becoming a Sun Devil.

Derron Ware, a former PrepStar All-American at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, was highly coveted during his junior year. ASU was one of many programs pursuing him early in the process. His early verbal to the Spartans didn't keep his suitors away. "I committed as a junior," he recalled. "So my high school coach was keeping the scouts away from me. But my coach told me that ASU, Wisconsin and some other schools still wanted to recruit me. But I kept my distance. Really, all my experience with the recruiting process started after I left Michigan State. In high school, I didn't take any official visits besides Michigan State." Ware mentioned schools such as California, Washington, and Michigan were recruiting him, and added that Oregon "almost changed my mind."

Players crossing three time zones to play college football are a rarity. Thus, what made Ware want to leave home to play thousands of miles away from his familiar surroundings? "I was young and I really wanted to leave L.A.," he said, "and I was so excited about leaving. I liked Bobby Williams and I established a strong bond with the coaching staff there. After they got fired, things went down hill."

Ware played ten games for Michigan State during his true freshman season, and was content with his role with the Spartans and had no thoughts whatsoever leaving after his first year. "I was cool with my playing time," he commented. "I was only 190 pounds. I was tall, but just 190 (smile). I was playing second string behind a senior. He got hurt towards the end of the season, so I played in some games."

While the safety sensed that the coaching change that brought John L. Smith to East Lansing was the beginning of a bad period, he wasn't quick to rush to judgment and rather observed the decline with a heavy heart. "I didn't want to quit right when the coaches changed - It was a process," he remarked. "The program was going down, and not just for me per say. If I stayed there, I wouldn't be happy. Coach Smith just came in with all these new rules, changing a lot of positions, I just had a bad feeling about everything."

Ware collected 28 tackles in his sophomore season, and at the conclusion of his second year he decided to make the difficult decision. "After the bowl game I talked to Coach Smith and I said that I had to leave," he recalled "At first, he was OK with it. But I think they had plans to change my position, because afterwards the linebacker coach kept calling me all the time wanting me to stay. But I told him I was leaving. I already did everything I needed to do to move."

The safety was obviously not going to come back home without a plan in place, so he contacted one of his hometown schools – the Bruins. "I talked to UCLA first, and my roller coaster started with them," he said. "I was all set to go there in the spring last year, and they weren't able to get me in. So, I had to come back to Michigan State and they already started school two weeks before. I still had my scholarship, so I took classes there. It was hard because I was playing catch-up."

Following the conclusion of his last semester in East Lansing, both schools in Los Angeles were now pursuing him and Ware felt certain that he would attend a school close to home. "UCLA set up a meeting with me, and then USC called me out of the blue. Things were going good with them, and I thought that's where I'm going. I was trying to get in before the summer, and it's hard because schools already gave out all their scholarships. It didn't work out with either of them because they ran out of scholarships." At this point, the Sun Devils entered the recruiting picture for the first time since the safety moved back to L.A. Nevertheless, the timing wasn't on their side, at least not yet. "ASU came calling and they were already two weeks into the semester," Ware commented, "and I wasn't gonna play that game again."

Ware came to the conclusion that he won't be able to get a scholarship and redshirt while being part of a team. However, his fortunes did eventually changed. "I was really stressed out," he recalled. "I was worried schools wouldn't want me because I was gonna sit out one year and not play. I called Arizona State back and they were happy to take me. Kansas State and all these other schools also called and wanted me. It was kinda crazy because everyone was calling me at the same time (smile). After two weeks USC called again, and said ‘we'll pick you up.' But they were last on my list…it was between ASU and Kansas State and I wanted to be close to home. When I started my classes at the community college, I already knew that I was going to Arizona State. I told the coaches not to worry about me on signing day (smile)."

With such a stressful recruiting experience, it stands to reason that the Sun Devils did a remarkable job seeking out Derron Ware's services. The safety couldn't agree more. "Arizona State did a very good job recruiting me and that impressed me," he stated. "They were calling and writing me all the time. I really had a strong bond with Coach Jackson, who recruited me when I was back at high school. He's from L.A. too, and we really related to each other. A lot of coaches said stuff and didn't follow through, but he always did. ASU was always calling me and seeing how I'm doing. USC – I always had to call them…the way ASU recruited me was by far the best recruiting job I've been through."

Ware is currently studying at Los Angeles City College. He decided not to play football, so he can have two years of eligibility left upon his arrival in Tempe. Ware said he hasn't even played flag football since coming back home, but has been conditioning three times a week. He admitted that being away from the pigskin has had a profound effect on him. "I've been playing since I was eight," he said. "Up until now, I don't think I ever appreciated playing the game. When you're not playing and looking at football from the outside, and I see all my friends playing – it's hard. I have a good friend, Marques Binns, who plays for Oregon. I went to see Oregon play Oregon State. It made me crazy just seeing the crowd, and I realized how much I missed it. It made me even more hungry to come back."

He doesn't have any apprehensions about being in-shape mentally or physically following his hiatus. "I was out of football technically, but whenever I watched a game – it was like film work to me. I can't say I was really out of football because I was still working out and studying the game."

At ASU, not only will he feel that he's close to home and his mother, but he also should be at ease with several familiar faces donning the maroon and gold with him. "Before my visit to ASU, I never looked at the roster," he commented. "And now I see so many people I know like Derek Hagan, Terry Richardson, Loren Wade, and Chad Green. That makes things comfortable."

At 6-3 230, Ware is bigger than the prototypical safety. Nevertheless, he stated that he has no desire to play at another position on the field. "I played linebacker and defensive end before because I'm bigger than a lot of players," he said. "But I'm a free safety. I train to play free safety. With the skills and knowledge I have, I need to play safety. I don't mean to brag about myself, but I worked way too hard not to play safety. I have the converge skills, and I know how to read the quarterback."

The Pac-10's arial attack style of play requires a somewhat different skill set from a safety compared to a run-dominated Big Ten. Ware realizes that and knows which of his attributes he needs to improve on. "I want to work on play action pass," said Ware. "In the Big Ten, we would come up on the run all the time. When we played Michigan, they ran the ball 50 times. So I want to work more on my coverage skills. I can play one-on-one better, and get faster when I run sideline to sideline. But I'm a real good hitter too" When asked how he felt about his chances of early playing time he replied: "I want to play right away! The coaches said I have a pretty good chance of competing for a job. That's all I need."

With a recruiting journey that has seen more heartache than happiness, Ware has to believe that he was destined to play for the Sun Devils. "Everything happened for a reason," he said. "It really was a game of choices, just like recruiting is. Everything worked out for the best." Ware is three credits shy from an AA degree, but is currently taking 12 credits in his last semester at Los Angeles City College. "Academics won't be an issue. Nothing is gonna stop me from coming to Arizona State." With his determination, who can doubt him and his chances of success with the Sun Devils…?

Recruit Profile

Name

Derron Ware

High SchoolDorsey (Los Angeles, Calif.)

Position

Safety

Height

6-3

Weight

230

Date of Birth

4/14/84

Birthplace

Los Angeles, Calif.

Nickname

"B-Ware"

Favorite TV Show

"The Dave Chapelle Show and Martin."

Favorite Movie

"Friday Night Lights"

Favorite Singer/Band

"G-Unit"

Favorite Food

"Steak and whatever goes with it (smile)."

Favorite Drink

"Gatorade"

Favorite Athlete

"Deion Sanders"

Favorite Pro Team

"Indianapolis Colts"

Person you most admire

"My mom. If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be where I am right now."

First Football Memory

"My mom not letting me play when I was eight (smile). She signed up my brother, but didn't want to sign me up. She thought I wasn't ready for it yet."

One Thing most people don't know about me

"That I'm shy."

Why did you choose ASU?

"I had a one-on-one with coach Koetter, and I was impressed how him and I were able to communicate. We were talking about life and what I want to do with it. I didn't have that at Michigan State."

Where do you want to be in ten years?

"In the NFL. If that doesn't work out, either a sportscaster or a fireman."

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