DeMarcus Ware has retired, and though the legendary pass rusher had a limited snap count in 2016, his presence was always felt on the field.
So the question to his protegé Shane Ray now is will the outside linebacker be ready to take Ware’s place on the field and be his own force to be reckoned with?
“Absolutely. I’ve been groomed for this for two years.” - Shane Ray
“Yeah. Absolutely,” Ray said matter-of-factly on The Afternoon Drive Tuesday.
“Absolutely. I’ve been groomed for this for two years,” Ray said, adding that the leadership void left by the retirement of DeMarcus Ware this offseason and Peyton Manning last offseason doesn’t get replaced. But it does mean young guys need to step up.
Now coming up on his third year with the Broncos, Ray understands it’s time to step up and lead.
“One of the ways I lead is with my play. I need to step up and be more of a physical leader,” Ray said. “I’m not really a vocal guy, but my presence on the field can make a difference. That’s my goal and that’s what I’m working for.”
[email protected] tells D-Ware tales:— The MMQB (@theMMQB) March 14, 2017
"I was DeMarcus’ rookie... He’d be like, OK, I need you to go get a bonsai tree."https://t.co/CHvmshLCqm pic.twitter.com/RAiTnhrpu3
And luckily for the Broncos, Ray had a legend in Ware and a future legend in Von Miller teaching him the way.
“I was blessed to have two vets in Von and DeMarcus who actually want me to grow, want me to be better, want me to be in the conversation with them, want me to be a Pro Bowler,” Ray said. “They dropped as much knowledge as they possibly could on a daily basis, whether I wanted to hear it or not.”
“I was blessed to have two vets in Von and DeMarcus who actually want me to grow, want me to be better, want me to be in the conversation with them, want me to be a Pro Bowler.” - Shane Ray
And that wasn’t just on the practice field. It was in the film room, the locker room, maybe even in the hall walking to a meeting.
“We could be walking to the meeting, talking about a rep or a move and we’d seen on film and he’d stop right there and go through it. That’s something Demarcus was always about,” Ray said, noting Ware often stopped everyone while watching film to break down a move and show the technique.
“When he’d stop the meeting to teach us these things, our coach would allow it. It just shows the respect everyone had for him and his knowledge for being such a great pass rusher.”
Big dog said eat. I told em they don't have enough plates @demarcusware pic.twitter.com/0NvU71mjVX— Shane Ray (@StingRay56) March 14, 2017
The Missouri native likes to talk about how Ware would remind him of his duty to work hard.
“He’d tell me, ‘You don’t have a choice but to be great. We’re going to work for that.’ And he held me to that. He stayed on me,” Ray added. “He’s a huge factor in my leap from year one to year two.”
Ray is definitely going to miss having his mentor around, but he believes he’s ready to become the player and man Ware was grooming him to be.
“He took me under his wing and started educating me early...he’d always find a way to teach me,” Ray said. “It says a lot about his character and who he is as a man; he’s definitely going to be missed in the locker room.”