Very few were as close to now-retired linebacker DeMarcus Ware in the football world as Shane Ray. Like many others, the current Denver Broncos linebacker didn’t see it coming when the veteran retired on Monday.
“It was definitely surprising, because I know DeMarcus’s mentality and how he plays the game, his commitment and dedication,” Ray told Eric Goodman and Les Shapiro during Afternoon Drive on Mile High Sports Radio. “At the same time, I saw what DeMarcus went through during the season, as far as injuries and what his body went through. I know that can be tough.”
For Ray, Ware was not just a teammate. They shared the same position. They were situated close to each other in the Broncos’ locker room. They shared a bond that went far beyond that.
“DeMarcus is like a mentor to me. I always talk to guys about how he took me under his wing and started educating me early,” Ray said. “Whether I beat a guy on a rep or anything, he was finding any way he could to teach me and also teach other guys. It just says a lot about his character and who he is as a man on and off the field.
“He’s definitely going to be missed in the locker room.”
Such a relationship might be a surprise. When the Broncos selected Ray in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the writing was kind of on the wall that he would eventually replace Ware at outside linebacker.
“You hear all the horror stories coming out of college: you don’t want to go to a team where you run into a vet, you don’t think that he wants to share his knowledge,” Ray said. “So, when I went to the Broncos, I really didn’t know what to expect at first. I can say that it was the exact opposite of that.”
Not just with Ray, but with several other members of the Broncos defense, Ware put in time to help them hone their craft. In fact, he took the role of veteran leader a step further, serving as a de facto coach.
“When we’re in the film room, we could be watching something and he’ll see something and stop the whole meeting, break it down to us, show us how it’s done with proper hand placement and technique,” Ray continued. “When DeMarcus would stop the meeting to teach us these things, our coach would allow it. It just shows the respect that everyone had for him and his knowledge of, being such a great pass rusher.”
With Ware now retired, there will be a leadership void on the Broncos defense, much like there was on the team’s offense when Peyton Manning retired last offseason. Ray knows that he will have to step up; a challenge that he is ready to embrace.
“You can never, ever replace the leadership of a Peyton Manning or a DeMarcus Ware; and it’s going to be tough, but I’m going to do the best job that I can personally, to step up in my role and my position and lead.”
Listen to the full interview with Shane Ray, including why he’s looking to bulk up and the reaction he has gotten to his Kansas City Chiefs tattoo, in the podcast below.
Catch Afternoon Drive with Goodman and Shapiro every weekday from 4p-6p on Mile High Sports AM 1340 | FM 104.7 or stream live any time for the best local coverage of Colorado sports from Denver’s biggest sports talk lineup.