No. 12: Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware

Hall of Famer Steve Young would be hard pressed to avoid DeMarcus Ware. MATCHUP GALLERY ESPN.com Illustration


ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine sought a list of the 20 current players who a 20-member Pro Football Hall of Fame panel and ESPN's John Clayton believe could excel in any era of the NFL.

Or, to put a finer point on it -- when Mike Ditka looks at today's player, whom does he want lining up next to him ... or across from him?

Which of today's players did our group of Hall of Famers deem really old school?

The playing days for our 20-member Hall of Fame panel spanned the '60s (Jim Brown) to the turn of the century (John Randle).

We'll present four players a day, culminating with our top four on Friday, Jan. 27.

Use the #NFLAnyEra Twitter hashtag to get involved in the conversation or just follow along at @ESPN or on our Facebook page.


Honorable mention and No. 20 | 19 | 18 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8
7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 | NFL Blog Network reaction



DARRELL GREEN: When you say tough guy, I'm thinking DeMarcus Ware. I'm talking about a guy who has to go against double teams all game long, with the line trying to kill him on every play and with backs chipping on him. That stuff hurts. There's toughness there in terms of your mind being able to overcome and take on a double team all day long, or you fight through everything and almost get the sack or you would have had it had the back not chipped you. I give the D-ends a lot of credit for being tough, for being able to take on double and triple teams all day long, and for the frustration of being a big guy and then having a little guy try and chip you. That's why I like Ware. He exemplifies how I feel about the great defensive ends and all they have to face.


JOHN RANDLE: There are some guys, linebackers and defensive ends, in today's game who can run, but they can't dip their shoulder or maneuver around those corners using their hands, but DeMarcus is a great linebacker, but he's also a great pass-rusher. And he's a great defensive lineman because he has the speed and the ability to take on blocks and to take on double teams.


JAMES LOFTON:There once was a time when you had a great pass-rusher, you'd say that you want to run the ball at him. When that doesn't work, you run away from him, and he chases the run down on the other side of the play. That's one of those qualities, and it's not a stopwatch quality, it's more of a desire quality. There are some guys who are thinking about the next play, but some guys are just thinking about that one play. They play one play at a time, and as corny as it sounds, they give it everything they have on a play. DeMarcus Ware is like that.



On Dec. 13, 2009, Ware left Cowboys Stadium strapped to a board with a serious neck injury after his head jammed into the leg of a San Diego offensive lineman. He momentarily lost feeling but was able to move not long after that. On Dec. 19 at New Orleans, Ware saw limited action but had two tackles and two sacks, including the game-ending sack and forced fumble of Saints quarterback Drew Brees in a victory over the previously unbeaten Saints.

I think my toughest moment was playing in the New Orleans game after having almost like a career-ending injury six days earlier against San Diego. It wasn't the physical part of it. It was the mental aspect of knowing your career could've been ended and now you're out here with the opportunity to play again and you don't know what's going to happen. I didn't practice at all that week and something just came over me when I went into the stadium.

Everybody was like, "You can just sit out this game and rest," but in the back of my mind I was like, "This is my stage. This is my opportunity to prove my toughness and also prove to myself that I can make a comeback." It was one of the most satisfying games that I've had because of just the opportunity to know you can do it again and play and have some kind of impact in that game. I'd say it was one of the most important games I played in.



Like all the great pass-rushers, Ware is able to put pressure on the quarterback on a consistent basis when he's healthy or injured. Ware reminds me of a bigger -- and faster -- Charles Haley, the Niners and Cowboys star of the late '80s and '90s.

CLAYTON ON WARE'S HALL OF FAME CHANCES: His first sack next season will put him over the 100 mark for his career, and 100-sack players always get Hall of Fame consideration.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Follow Clayton on Twitter @ClaytonESPN



Honorable mention and No. 20 | 19 | 18 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 14 | 13 | 12 | 11 | 10 | 9 | 8
7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1 | MORE: Twitter | Facebook | NFL Blog Network

Additional reporting by ESPN The Magazine's Morty Ain, Louise Cornetta, Amy Parlapiano and Alyssa Roenigk.