Ware deals with injuries

ATHENS — When Danny Ware opened the 2004 season on the field, it was a milestone. He became the first true freshman running back since 1943 to start the season-opener for the Bulldogs.

When he was watching from the sideline as the final regular season game ended, there was nothing unusual about it. Danny Ware had no trouble breaking into the lineup. It was staying healthy enough to remain in it that was the problem.

Coach Mark Richt got a glimpse of Ware on the sideline during the Georgia Tech game, which he missed half of due to a broken hand.

"He was just kind of rolling his eyes a little bit, like, ‘What's next?'" Richt said. "It just seems like about every third game or so, something has gone awry for him and not really allowed him to sustain the pace he started at. He certainly is disappointed."

Ware rushed for 135 yards in the No. 8 Bulldogs' first game of the year, becoming the first Georgia back to gain more than 100 in a game since the 2002 season. He only gained 496 yards in the next 10 games combined thanks in large part to injuries to his lungs, knee, ankle and hand.

"It's been tough on him," Richt said. "He started out so well."

Running backs coach Ken Rucker compared Ware to Auburn running back Cadillac Williams, who was slowed by injuries early in his career but helped lead the Tigers to an undefeated regular season this year.

"I'm sure (Ware) has been disappointed some, but he's grown up from it," Rucker said. "It's made him stronger as a person and his attitude hasn't changed."

As the Bulldogs continue preparations for the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl, Ware has put his season in perspective. He played in all or part of nine games and finished as the Bulldogs' second-leading rusher behind fellow freshman Thomas Brown (764).

He became the first Bulldog with three rushing touchdowns in a game since 2001, and he finished the year with four games of more than 100 yards.

"I know there have been worse situations for a lot of players," he said. "I look at it as being fortunate I was able to play as many games as I did."

Ware's only previous experience with injury came as a high school sophomore, when he missed two games due to a broken fibula, and, for the record, he doesn't consider himself injury prone. If other people do, that's their problem, he said.

"They can question it if they want to," he said. "I'll have to prove them wrong."

Ware plans to play in the bowl game against No. 16 Wisconsin despite wearing a cast that covers half his right hand.

"If I can go, I'm going to go," he said. "I think that builds trust with my teammates, letting them know I'll go through a little pain to be with them."

Ware hasn't forgotten that he's got three more years to make up for any disappointments he suffered this season.

"I'm still bright eyed," he said, "and excited about the future."

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