ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Super Bowl 50 champion DeMarcus Ware is one step closer to being the next former Bronco to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame announced Wednesday that Ware is among the list of 26 former NFL stars who are semifinalists for the Class of 2022. He joins Anquan Boldin, Devin Hester, Andre Johnson, Robert Mathis, Steve Smith and Vince Wilfork as semifinalists who made the list in their first year of eligibility.
The list of semifinalists will be reduced to 15 Modern-Era finalists before the Hall of Fame's selection committee meets on Feb. 10 to select the Class of 2022. Should Ware earn that honor, he would be the fourth former Bronco elected as a first-ballot Hall of Famer, joining John Elway, Champ Bailey and Peyton Manning.
Ware began his stellar career with the Dallas Cowboys, who drafted him with the 11th-overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. He twice led the NFL in sacks — in 2008 and 2010 — and was later selected to the NFL's 2000s All-Decade Team. Ware made seven consecutive Pro Bowls during that stint and was selected four times as a first-team All-Pro and three times as a second-team All-Pro.
In 2014, after the Cowboys released him, Ware decided to sign with the Broncos, forming a foundational piece of Denver's historic 2014 free-agent class that was instrumental to Denver's championship run the following season.
With Peyton Manning leading the offense, the Broncos relied on Ware to be the veteran leader on the defense. He was a key mentor for Von Miller, and the two formed pass-rushing bookends that were among the best in recent memory.
In his first season in Denver, Ware recorded the eighth 10-sack season of his career and earned his eighth career Pro Bowl selection.
The following year, in Wade Phillips' masterful defense, Ware was even better, as he earned his first conference defensive player of the month award with 4.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hits in four games.
After missing five games due to injury, Ware returned for the final stretch of the season to help push Denver to a playoff berth. In Week 16, he recovered a fumble in overtime to give Denver a 20-17 win over the Bengals, and in the season finale, he had a sack in the game that clinched home-field advantage for the Broncos through the playoffs.
During the 2015 postseason run, Ware was a wrecking ball with 3.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, four tackles for loss and a fumble recovery over three games. He recovered a Steelers fumble to help start the Broncos' go-ahead touchdown drive and then ended the Steelers' next drive with a sack on fourth down during the divisional round game. In the first conference championship game of his career, Ware was even harder to block; he racked up seven quarterback hits on Tom Brady and the Patriots as Denver got a 20-18 win.
In Super Bowl 50, Ware was a key part of the defense's championship effort with two sacks, two tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and five tackles as the Broncos hassled Cam Newton and the Panthers' league-leading scoring offense into their worst outing of the season.
Ware returned in 2016 for a final season, and in spite of more injuries, he increased his career sack total to 138.5. That total ranks ninth all time since the NFL began tracking the stat in 1982, and no other Class of 2022 semifinalist has as many career sacks.
Now, five years later, Ware is getting closer to officially joining the game's all-time greats in Canton, Ohio.