“I’ve just got a big chip on my shoulder right now,” said Ware, who skipped his senior season to enter this year’s draft despite being a third-string running back most of the last two seasons. “I didn’t get as many carries or as much playing time as I felt I deserved, so I’ve got a big chip on my shoulder.”
Ware came to Georgia in 2004 after one year at a prep school and immediately won the starting job, rushing for 724 yards on 138 carries that season. He found it appropriate, he said, that he and former Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson entered college football the same year, and he expected their careers to take similar paths, even though Peterson gained 1,925 yards as a freshman.
Peterson went on to an All-America career. Ware started just two games his final two seasons and none has a junior. He was Georgia’s third-string runner when both Kregg Lumpkin and Thomas Brown were healthy.
“It was frustrating all the time,” he said, “especially when you see guys like Adrian Peterson getting 30 carries a game and seeing that my freshman year we were right there together, and the next thing I know I wasn’t getting as many carries and not as much playing time.”
Ware finished his career with 1,542 yards and eight touchdowns, and he never matched his freshman year numbers.
“There were times I felt like I should be getting more playing time and there were times I didn’t think I was doing as good as I should be doing,” he said, “so there were times I understood and times I didn’t.”
Ware still has a good relationship with the school. He has used the team’s weight room to prepare for the draft and talks to running backs coach Tony Ball almost every day for advice and encouragement, he said.
Terry Watson, Ware’s agent, is trying to spin Ware’s situation the best he can, selling the fact that his client has relatively fresh legs. With only 320 carries and no history of significant injury, theoretically he has plenty of work left in his 6-foot-1, 225-pound body. It’s a tough sell, but it’s about all they’ve got.
Is anybody buying it?
“It’s a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty situation,” said Scott Wright, the president of NFLDraftCountdown.com. “On one side, he’s got fresh legs; on the other, he didn’t get that much work. I tend to think that people are going to look at it like he’s a third-string running back and couldn’t get on the field. At best, I think he’s probably a seventh-round pick. There is some potential there, but I think he’s probably going to be undrafted.”
Watson is a realist. Even in his most optimistic moments, he thinks Ware will be a fifth- to seventh-round selection.
“Certainly, it’s not bullet proof,” Watson said. “There is a chance he could go undrafted. There is a chance also that a team could be enamored with him and possibly draft him early in that range.”
Watson and Ware hope the coattails of former Georgia backs like Terrell Davis and Olandis Gary provide some momentum for Ware. Davis and Gary each had unspectacular college careers before flourishing in the pros. Both were drafted by the Denver Broncos (Gary in the fourth round and Davis in the sixth).
“NFL scouts have mentioned the names Terrell Davis and Olandis Gary to me more than once,” Watson said. “Danny is a guy who is compared to those two guys not only from a Georgia standpoint but from an ability standpoint. Terrell and Olandis were classified as guys who had OK speed but were not burners.”
Ware has drawn inspiration from those under-Dog backs. The Broncos even mentioned Davis, a former Super Bowl MVP, during an interview with Ware, Ware said.
“They were letting me know he was in the same position, and look what he did,” Ware said.
The Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers also have called Ware, he said, but none have conducted a private workout.
The Giants are the team Watson will be watching, he said.
“The Giants were intrigued at his pro day,” the agent said. “They tried hard not to show it.”
Ware knew when he left Georgia that he wouldn’t be an early round pick. His only goal this weekend is to hear his name called by someone and avoid having to catch on with a team as an undrafted free agent.
“Really, I’m trying not to think about it,” he said. “It’ll stress you out. I kind of knew it was going to be rough because I didn’t have all the game film, and I didn’t start all three years like I wanted to. It’s not OK with me. I don’t want to go in the fifth round, but getting drafted anywhere is a blessing, not having to go free agent. I’m hoping I can sneak into the third or fourth round.”
If not, he’ll have more to prove.
“I feel once I get into a camp and lace up the pads and get a chance,” he said. “I think I’ll be just like my freshmen year."