CANTON, Ohio. — If DeMarcus Ware was curious about when becoming a Pro Football Hall of Famer would truly set in, he needn't wonder any longer.
On Friday night, Ware and the rest of the Class of 2023 received their gold jackets, complete with the Hall of Fame patch over the chest pocket.
"Oh, it's real now," Ware told DenverBroncos.com's Phil Milani. "Don't you see it? Oh, it's real."
The smile that Broncos fans became so accustomed to seeing during Ware's three years in Denver was hard for the Super Bowl 50 champion to contain.
"It feels so good man, just going on stage and finally getting the jacket," Ware said. "And you know what? I'm in the house now. I'm in that fraternity. Just seeing a lot of Denver guys, a lot of Dallas guys, there's no words that I can [use to] describe the feeling — to say, 'You know what, you etched your name in stone in the NFL's history.'"
The Hall of Fame's ceremony featured some old and some new customs. Each member of the new inductees walked down a path lined on each side with other Hall of Famers, a rite more commonly known as "The Gauntlet." Near the end of Ware's walk, he encountered fellow former Bronco Peyton Manning, who was also a captain on the Broncos' Super Bowl 50 team. The two embraced before Ware moved on to the stage to receive his jacket.
"That was — I've gone through a gauntlet before, but not like that," Ware said. "That's one time you're going to be able to do that, with the best ever. …
"I gave Peyton a huge hug. Because I knew what it took to win Super Bowl 50 and just our leadership together to bring home the Super Bowl to Denver. And now to be able to see all these guys come to the enshrinement and the party and just exchange old stories, that's a lifetime of memories that I'm going to be able to have forever."
On Saturday night in Canton, Ohio, Super Bowl 50 champion DeMarcus Ware received his gold jacket as one of the newest inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In a new tweak to the jacket ceremony, the Hall of Fame suggested that new inductees select an already-enshrined legend to slip the gold jacket onto the inductee. Ware chose his longtime friend and former NFC East rival Michael Strahan to do the honors.
But it was after Ware donned the jacket that he maybe felt the full weight of Hall of Fame distinction. His mother joined him onstage, and the two hugged before departing in front of his new elite group of peers.
"It feels really good," Ware said. "... Once I put that gold jacket on, you know that you're in a fraternity that's going to last forever. A brotherhood of guys that when I went through that gauntlet, they welcomed me, which was so cool. They were excited to see us go in. And seeing Peyton at the end, I think that was an icing on the cake, because him taking time out again, coming here, that's how I know it's important."
On Saturday, Ware's Hall of Fame dreams will be completed as he gets enshrined, gives a speech and has his bronze bust unveiled.
While Ware didn't reveal the full content of his speech, he did give a hint — and it sounds quite compelling, especially in regards to his time with the Broncos after departing his original NFL home in Dallas.
"It changed my life, because Denver is actually truly God's country," Ware said. "I found just how to forgive myself there, how to forgive my dad. So many things changed in my life. But also how to be a champion. …
"You go through so many things in your life. Forgiving myself first, that's the only way I could forgive my dad. You'll find out about that in my speech."