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'I played baseball — I love baseball.' | DeMarcus Ware's Hall of Fame NFL career almost didn't happen without meeting another Auburn legend

Cowboys fans recognize the bright smile and revere his defensive dominance. What they may not know is that he almost never played football.

DALLAS — His super power: Disruption. 

Fast and feared, DeMarcus Ware is among the most-dominant pass rushers in NFL history. His story may have never happened were it not for a chance meeting though.

Growing up in Auburn, Ala., football wasn't on Ware's radar.

"I played baseball," Ware said. "I love baseball. And that was, like, my jam, right?" 

Enter another Auburn sports legend.

"And I remember in the Boys and Girls Club, I saw, y'know, Bo Jackson," Ware said. "[But] I didn't know who Bo Jackson was at the time."

Soon thereafter, Ware was working concessions and selling soft drinks at an Auburn game where Jackson was honored. Ware said he saw the crowd go crazy for Jackson, and witnessing that reception lit a fire within him.

"That's what moved me into starting to play football," Ware said. "Because I said, 'If [Bo Jackson] can move a crowd like that, I can do the same thing.'"

Credit: WFAA

Ware's talent and tenacity moved Cowboys fans alright. 

Ware is Dallas' all-time sack leader with 117 while donning the star on his helmet. A full 20 of those 117 came in 2008 alone, en route to his earning the NFC Defensive Player of the Year title. (He finished second in the AP Defensive Player of the Year voting behind Pittsburgh's James Harrison.)

"I knew I couldn't be stopped," Ware said.

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) is pressured by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011, in Arlington, Texas. The Giants won 37-34. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Ware then departed from Dallas to Denver, where he led the Broncos to a Super Bowl title in 2015.

All of those moments from Ware's 12 seasons in the NFL -- nine with Dallas -- were culminated into one special moment early this year when he found out he was being inducted into the NFL's Hall of Fame.

Credit: AP
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) is sacked by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) during the first half of an NFL football game Saturday, Dec. 24, 2011, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)

It was Cowboys owner Jerry Jones who broke the news to Ware.

"I saw with the gold jacket on and it still hadn't hit me yet," Ware recalled. "And I'm like, 'What are you doing?' Right then, at that time, my whole spirit sort of like dropped. My heart stopped. I could not breathe at all. I stepped back and I was like, 'Alright. You did it.' I mean, I'm like shaking right now a little bit... [but it was] like, 'You did it.'"

More than sheer athleticism paved Ware's road to Canton. He had an innate ability to turn a negative into a positive. Not having a father in his life was a prime motivator for him.

"Every Sunday, something grew in me from all the hurt -- all the pain" Ware said. "I put that out on the field when I let God lead me through the whole thing. It was so many negative things. But no matter what, everything negative that happened, something more positive came from it because I pushed through it."

As he prepares for his Hall of Fame induction this summer, Ware is living the "dad" life with his wonderfully modern family. Ware re-married a couple of years ago. He and his wife, Angela, share a toddler they call "MJ," and his children Marley and DeMarcus Jr. are growing up fast.

There's a lesson learned from his NFL career that he hopes to pass on to his offspring.

"What’s for free is your effort," Ware said. "You put in as much effort in whatever that you do, and you will be OK."

Ware was a disruptor and chaos creator, but now he's found peace in solitude that he's proven himself on and off the field.

"The gold jacket... I mean, it's a dream come true," he said. "You see all the hard work and sacrifice that you made for the family -- not for yourself, all the sacrifices for everybody else. This is the first time I can say this is my individual accolade that’s at the top, and that means the most to me."

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