Denzil Ware does it all. He hits. He sacks. He jokes. He scores. He leads. He praises. He entertains. He wins.
In a five-minute conversation after Wednesday’s practice, the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week showed humility, thanked his teammates for their help and threw jabs at his Blitz Bros and his head coach. Once a quiet kid from near the Florida panhandle in South Alabama, Ware is now Kentucky’s most entertaining player on and off the field.
One of Mark Stoops’ first four-star recruits, Ware respects his coach. He does so with a little humor.
“I’m real scared when his face starts turning all red, he starts getting all tense. I’ll be like, ‘Whoa, don’t blow up. I’m sorry.’ He’s all about respect and that’s all I give him.”
“I’m not scared of too much but when you got a guy this tall,” Ware held his arm up to his waste, “that turns red, you better back up. It ain’t good.”
All summer Stoops was red, determined to ensure Kentucky fans would never see a defense perform that poorly again. Ware took it upon himself to make sure the entire defense bought in.
“Before the season even started, he said last year that we was not going to look like that defense last year or a couple years ago. This was going to be a whole new change, a whole new team and that’s exactly what we’re going to do. We’re going to make the preacher right.”
That’s exactly what they did in the first game of the 2017 season against Southern Miss. The Cats held the Golden Eagles to just 55 rushing yards. Ware was rewarded for his efforts, named the best by the league as the conference’s best defensive lineman.
“You had great games all over and they picked me? I’m just really humbled for it. I just gotta thank my teammates because they put me in (the right) situations,” Ware said. “It was really all a team effort. That award is for all the whole defense. It’s not just for me, it’s for the whole defense.”
The @UKFootball defense is getting in on the fun.
The scoop and score puts the Wildcats up 7. pic.twitter.com/pVJUffAQ6J
– CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) September 2, 2017
Ware is sharing the award with his Blitz Brother, Josh Allen.
“He works hard, he pushes everybody to do great, to be great. He makes people be great. It’s not no, ‘Hey man, you’re want to be great today?’ It’s, ‘You’re going to be great. You’re going to get these sacks. You’re going to be a household name. You’re going to be a All-American.’ That’s him. He’s speaking it all into existence. You can’t have a better brother besides you, another brother in crime right there. That’s my dog. That’s my homie. And the same thing he expects from the defense is the same thing he expects from him. If he’s loud, jumping around showing off that big gap in his mouth, you best believe we’re in it.”
There’s no statement that reflects Ware’s personality and leadership better. He sings their praises, builds them up, challenges them, then makes a joke about a gap in their teeth.
That strategy is being employed to transform Josh Paschal into an elite edge rusher. All preseason, Ware challenged Paschal to take his job. After one game he’s given Paschal a new, more light-hearted challenge: join the Blitz Brotherhood.
“Right now he’s Blitz Baby, and if he keeps going up he’ll be on Baity’s level, a Blitz Cousin. You just gotta work for that. It’s hard to be a Blitz Brother.”
What will it take for Paschal to join their ranks? “You just gotta do your thing in the game one time. If it’s up to our standard, then we’ll let him in, but if not, you’re just a Blitz Baby. That’s what he is.”
Another edition of why I love Denzil Ware.
He’s now Blitz Daddy and Josh Paschal is Blitz Baby. pic.twitter.com/t5QcNQOK0c
– TJ Beisner (@tjbeisner) September 7, 2017
Ware is a serious leader with a sense of humor. You see the sacks, the tackles for losses and the touchdowns, but what you don’t see from the leader on the practice field is what sets him apart and makes him arguably the most invaluable asset to the defense.