With the fifth anniversary of Super Bowl 50 nearly upon us, we’re spending the week sharing stories from five players who made key plays in the game. Today, we hear from outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who takes us into the team meeting room the night before Super Bowl 50 for his and Peyton Manning's emotional speeches and then into the locker room, where they shared a special moment with the Lombardi Trophy after winning the Super Bowl.
The night before Super Bowl 50 belonged to the Broncos' elder statesmen.
Gathered in a team meeting room at the Santa Clara Marriott, Peyton Manning and DeMarcus Ware took center stage to speak to their teammates before the biggest game of all of their lives.
Manning went first, and his words had a different timbre from his usual speeches. Ever the comedian, Manning would normally have some jokes sprinkled into his remarks to lighten the mood before big games. He had some to start, but the tone quickly turned thoughtful and serious. When they may have normally been chuckles from the audience during Manning's pauses, there was just silence. At times, it became spiritual. One of his teammates recalls now that Manning was "outright praying for guys." The emotion was building in the room; another teammate later remembered Manning got choked up as he spoke about their team and the game ahead of them.
Ware, himself an NFL veteran of more than a decade, was no less affected by the experience — especially because what Manning left unsaid about his own future came across just as clearly as his words.
"I saw the glitter in his eyes, too, to where everybody in the room, you could hear a pin drop when he was talking," Ware says. "Because you knew this was going to be the last time of him ever playing. And to be able to play with a legend like that, it was, I mean, that was a memory of a lifetime."
Then when Manning wrapped up his speech, Ware realized something.
"Well, OK then, what am I actually going to do to follow this guy?" Ware recalls thinking. "What am I actually going to say?"
To some degree, Ware had a plan. He had spoken the night before the AFC Championship Game and delivered a rousing speech that climaxed with the unveiling of one of the franchise's previous Lombardi Trophies in front of the team. It worked that time, so he would bring it back out for an encore.
"This is our good luck charm," Ware says. "We're bringing this damn thing."
Ware's speech was also remembered for its emotion and fire.
"I pulled the trophy out and I stuck it on the table, and I sat there and looked at it," Ware says. "And I looked at all the guys' eyes and seeing, just getting a gauge of, Do y'all want this or not? And I said, This year, our motto was iron sharpens iron, and another man sharpens another. And from all the ups and downs we went through, the fire that we had to go through, we have molded this steel — which is this Super Bowl trophy right here. This isn't ours, but we have an opportunity to live forever by building a piece of armor that we can take to battle with us every single day for the rest of our lives. … And I said, The Carolina Panthers are going to come here and try to steal our trophy. They don't know what we've been through. They don't know what we molded this season.
"And I said, It's time to go to battle, fellas. We have our armor right here already. We're prepared. Before you guys go to sleep tonight, I want for you to go touch this trophy. I just want you to touch it and go to bed, get some rest and I want you to dream about holding this trophy up at the end of the game."
His teammates may have done that, but they also dreamed about their two leaders holding that trophy, too.