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Five from 50: Inside DeMarcus Ware's and Peyton Manning’s pre-Super Bowl speeches and the bond they forged in 2015
The next in our series for the fifth anniversary of Super Bowl 50 features DeMarcus Ware’s story of forging a forever bond with Peyton Manning in 2015.
By Ben Swanson Feb 04, 2021

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.

It had been a trying season for both Manning and Ware.

The veteran pass rusher suffered a back injury in Week 5, and though he only missed five games, the injury was quite serious.

"I would come to the facility at 12 o'clock because it took me two hours to get my truck to drive down there," Ware says. "Some of the trainers would come and get me out of the bed. Dude, it was one of the worst times of my life. But I was like, I just got to go in to the facility. Guys would drag me. If you would ask Von [Miller], Malik [Jackson], any of those guys, they would drag me out of the meeting room. I would be sitting down there in the back, just like this. Then they would be like, All right, DeMarcus, time to go. I'd put my hands on their shoulders and they would drag me all the way to the locker room or wherever I needed to go."

Most of the days he was in the training room, Manning was there too. In his 18th season, the five-time league MVP tore his plantar fascia and missed six games.

"I remember when Peyton got hurt and when I got hurt, it was right in the middle of the season," Ware says. "We were like, We're not winning the Super Bowl. But the guys, week in and week out, meeting after meeting, practice after practice — me and Peyton sat on the sideline. We had meetings in the treatment room. We were just sitting there talking, looking through the window at the snow. It was weird. It was like, Hey, we can't be out there, but we did everything we could. [Then] there's a win. There's another win. There's another win. I'm like, Hold on, man. This is crazy. We started talking about, What if we can get to the Super Bowl?"

Ware returned for the final four games to help clinch a postseason berth, and then Manning made a mid-game return in the season finale to secure home-field advantage through the playoffs.

With some quintessential performances in the AFC Championship from both of them — Ware, in his first conference championship game, recorded seven hits on Tom Brady and Manning threw two first-half touchdowns — the Broncos were headed to the Super Bowl.

Here were two legends of the game near the ends of their careers who had pushed through some of the toughest times of their career to get to this point. With an opportunity to give them these everlasting memories, their teammates fought to win for their two captains as much or even more than they did for themselves.

After the Broncos won, Ware celebrated on the field with teammates, coaches and family, but then he retreated to the locker room while most were still outside. To his surprise, he saw the Lombardi Trophy in his locker.

"I walked into the locker room and it's right there," Ware says. "… And guess who taps me on my shoulder? Peyton. And when I turned around at Peyton, Peyton's eyes are glittery. Mine's glittery. And I'm like, Who would have thought, man? Me and you being able to lead this team to a Super Bowl, and we're so old and beat-up, but we did it. … There was no words; we just, like, grabbed each other, man. The trophy was right between us like a baby. … I love you, man!"

Also available in our Five from 50 series:

Take an inside look at the moments from immediately before Super Bowl 50, from the Broncos' arrival at Levi's Stadium to observing the flyover during the national anthem..

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