Denver Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware would gladly trade his 134.5 sacks and eight Pro Bowls for a Super Bowl ring.
Ware started working toward that goal in 2005 when the Dallas Cowboys made him a first-round pick, never guessing he would wait this long to get a chance to play for a championship.
“This is my 11th year,” Ware told reporters in Denver last week. “It’s already January right now — 2016. The year 2015 is already gone. Time flies by so fast, and you have to cherish every single moment.
The big things that you can accomplish with a team, that’s what you can remember forever.
Broncos LB DeMarcus Ware
“I can remember maybe my first sack, but not the little, small things in the middle. The big things that you can accomplish with a team, that’s what you can remember forever. I look at it right now, this is one of those things that I can accomplish that way and can be a stamp in the book.”
Ware and Carolina Panthers defensive end Jared Allen, in his 12th season, share more than just a place among the top pass rushers in NFL history. (Allen is tied with Julius Peppers for ninth all-time with 136 career sacks; Ware trails by 1.5 sacks, in 11th place.)
While both Ware and Allen will earn serious consideration for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame once they finish their careers, neither had ever made it to the Super Bowl before this season.
“Moments like this are just why you play the game,” Ware said. “I’m just being a competitor and a team guy. You can have the individual accolades, but that doesn’t mean anything. At the end of the day, what have you done for the team to make them even better?
“I think this right here is the pinnacle point in my career. What can you do now to help your team get to that next level?”
Of the 170 players in the Super Bowl era inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, 83 never won a Super Bowl title. Here’s a look at some of the greatest players who never won a Super Bowl ring:
Dick Butkus, LB, Bears, 1965-73: The greatest linebacker in NFL history never made the playoffs, with the 1965 Bears missing the postseason despite a 9-5 record.
Earl Campbell, RB, Houston Oilers, Saints, 1978-85: His teams went 3-3 in the playoffs, losing two AFC Championship Games to the Steelers.
Eric Dickerson, RB, LA Rams, Colts, Raiders, Falcons, 1983-93: Despite rushing for 13,259 yards, including a record 2,105 in a single season, he got only as close as an NFC Championship Game loss to the Bears in 1985.
Carl Eller, DE, Vikings, Seahawks, 1964-79: An all-decade player in the 1970s, Eller played on the Vikings’ four Super Bowl runner-up teams.
Tony Gonzalez, TE, Chiefs, Falcons, 1997-2013: He went 1-6 in the playoffs, with the 2012 Falcons losing in the NFC Championship Game.
Deacon Jones, DE, LA Rams, Chargers, Redskins, 1961-74: He had an unofficial 173.5 career sacks, one of the greatest pass rushers ever, but went 0-2 in the playoffs.
Jim Kelly, QB, Bills, 1986-96: The three-time All-Pro finished with 35,467 career passing yards, but the Bills lost all four times they made it to the Super Bowl.
Dan Marino, QB, Dolphins, 1983-99: He passed for 61,361 yards but went 8-10 as a starter in the postseason, and the Dolphins lost his only Super Bowl appearance in 1984.
Bruce Matthews, OL, 1983-2001, Houston Oilers, Tennessee Oilers/Titans: He was a 14-time Pro Bowler, playing in 296 career games, but the Titans lost the franchise’s only Super Bowl appearance in the 1999 season.
Anthony Munoz, OT, Bengals, 1980-92: The nine-time All-Pro arguably ranks as the greatest left tackle in history, but never won a ring with two Super Bowl losses to the 49ers.
Ozzie Newsome, TE, Browns, 1978-90: He retired with 662 career catches but lost three heartbreakers to the Broncos in the AFC title game.
Merlin Olsen, DT, LA Rams, 1962-76: The 14-time Pro Bowler never made the Super Bowl, going 3-6 in the postseason.
Alan Page, DT, Vikings, Bears, 1967-81: The nine-time All-Pro lost in four Super Bowls with the Vikings.
Barry Sanders, RB, Lions, 1989-98: He retired with 15,269 yards, but just one playoff win while losing six postseason games.
Gale Sayers, RB, Bears, 1965-71: He never even reached the postseason in his short career.
Junior Seau, LB, Chargers, Dolphins, Patriots, 1990-2009: The 12-time Pro Bowler and eight-time All-Pro lost two Super Bowls.
O.J. Simpson, RB, Bills, 49ers, 1969-79: He played in only one playoff game, in 1974, when the Bills lost in the divisional round to the Steelers.
Bruce Smith, DE, Bills, Redskins, 1985-2003: The two-time defensive player of the year finished with a league-leading 200 career sacks — but four Super Bowl losses.
Fran Tarkenton, QB, Vikings, Giants, 1961-78: He passed for 47,003 career yards and made nine Pro Bowls, but lost three Super Bowls.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB, Chargers, Jets, 2001-2011: The TCU product retired with 13,684 yards rushing, but lost two AFC title games and finished with a 4-5 postseason record.
Others: Champ Bailey, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, John Hannah, Ken Houston, Steve Largent, Warren Moon, Randy Moss, Derrick Thomas, Larry Wilson, Jack Youngblood.
Super Bowl 50
Broncos vs. Panthers
5:30 p.m. Sunday, KTVT/11