What a Difference a Year Makes

Your typical JC transfer will likely struggle in his first year of Division I football. When your JC year is spent away from the gridiron, as in the case of Derron Ware, the challenge becomes that much stiffer. Last year, the linebacker may have fit that aforementioned mold, but no one could have predicted his remarkable turnaround as he was named a starter for the 2006 season opener.

Derron Ware, a former PrepStar All-American at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles, was a highly coveted recruit. He was pursued by Arizona State and several other schools, and committed early in the recruiting calendar to Michigan State. A change in the Spartans' coaching staff prompted him to come back home and stay in Pac-10 country as he settled on the maroon and gold.

Because he returned home just months before the beginning of the 2004 season, it was too late for any school to accept him a scholarship player. Therefore, he attended Los Angeles City College, where he wasn't part of the football team and concentrated on his studies. When he came to Tempe, he admitted that he was under the impression that his hiatus from the game won't prevent him from being an impact player upon his arrival to the ASU campus. He did state that maybe in some way he did have a sense that he deserved to play early and often, coming from a program like Michigan State.

"I was working out, but I wasn't in D-I shape," recalled Ware. "When I came up (to ASU) I felt I was ready, but I really wasn't and I didn't accept that in my mind. I really felt it was time for me to play, but the film doesn't lie. I wasn't as fast, and you can tell I lost weight (from last year). Now I'm a year into the program and I'm in the best shape of my life."

In 2005, the 6-4 217 Ware made a modest impact as a safety. He recorded 26 total tackles and three pass breakups, as he started two of the 11 games he played in. Different people in his life motivated him in the off-season and gave him a sense of urgency to make that improbable 180 degree turn. "My mom and my son (two-year old Derron Jr.) – I was thinking about them," he admitted. "In my last year, I wanted my mom to see me start. She wasn't able to make a lot of games at Michigan State, and the couple of games I did start she didn't see (in person). Now that I'm gonna start in front of her – it will be an emotional game."

"Coach Miler really put the challenge to me and told me that he wanted me to get faster and stronger and prove that I can stop the run – he didn't want me to be just a third down player," continued Ware. "Eventually I accepted it, worked hard in the off-season and I'm starting right now. I can't really say I was predicting this (being named a starter). I kinda just changed my mind and said ‘this is my last year. I have to go hard and show the coaches they can count on me when my number was called.' Now it's time to play."

Ware said that he never played safety until 10th grade in high school, but when asked to assume that role at ASU, he felt that the adjustment wouldn't be an extremely difficult process. "I was always a defensive end or linebacker, but I never was a safety at the D-1 level," he stated. "I picked up on it quickly, but it's a position where everything goes by real first and I'm not used to jamming my fingers that much (like he was at safety)."

Now back at linebacker, Ware has been honing the attributes he will need to posses in order to effectively play the role. "I improved on reads, like reading pulling guards…just all my run reads," he explained. "I have defensive back experience and I know how to cover. It was just all about getting down the run reads, because when I moved to linebacker, I was just OK. I had averaged two tackles every scrimmage in the spring, and now it's like four, five every scrimmage…some sacks too."

It has been a turbulent football journey for Derron Ware, and no one deserves more than him to end his colligate career with a blaze of glory. The beginning of what he hopes will be a memorable senior campaign; will start in less than 48 hours. "I got a lot of build up for this game and it's gonna be emotional for me," claimed Ware. "I'm gonna try to keep leveled and not burn out in warm-ups. I'm just gonna hold it all together and unleash it on the field on Thursday."

And it's been a long time coming…

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