After catching up Penn State defensive tackle Brandon Ware following an Uplifting Athletes charity event on Sunday afternoon, it's clear that he thinks this is the year he'll start to contribute.
Consistently overweight through his career as a Nittany Lion, Ware has shed another 15 pounds from his playing weight in 2010, and is looking to drop another 10 pounds before the start of the 2011 season.
With a plea from his position coach, Larry Johnson, to be a leader among the defensive linemen this season, Ware says he has taken the request seriously. As our interview shows, Ware also claims to have his academics in order.
Will Ware's new found dedication be enough to salvage his career?
Check out our one-on-one interview with him here!
BWI: What is this Uplifting Athletes event about?
Ware: It's about Uplifting Athletes. We have the Lift for Life event. So, it's always good to come down and support a good cause. We do this all the time for free at our apartments. In fact, before I came here, I was playing with my roommates. So, we do this for free all the time so it's nothing to come down here and do it for a good cause.
BWI: So, you were just telling me you lost. What happened?
Ware: I played Nate Cadogan, and he was up 14, but I came back and beat him the last second. I thought I'd do the same with Ty (Howle) but I got a couple of penalties, couldn't really come back from that, but it was a good game.
BWI: How are winter workouts going?
Ware: When we first started out, I had a meeting with Coach Johnson, and he told me what he expected of me, and that I'm a junior now. Ollie left, so it's time for me to step up. He told me he wanted me to be a leader, and wanted me to play a lot this year. I took that going into winter workouts, trying to work hard and get down to 325 now. That's the lowest I've been this year, so I'm feeling real good, ready to work, ready to have a good time this spring, ready to have a lot of fun with my teammates and my friends and get ready.
BWI: Joe has always talked about your weight. Is 325 the goal or are you trying to get even lower?
Ware: They wanted me under 330. They didn't have a specific... but, under 330 coach Johnson said. (They do body fat for you guys, right?) Yeah, body fat. Just as long as your body fat correlates with your weight. I think my body fat last time was 27, but hopefully it's like 25 now. We'll do testing next week. My goal this spring was just to lose as much weight as I could, still get as strong as I could, but my main thing was the weight.
BWI: Do you lose strength while you're losing weight?
Ware: I feel like I've always been pretty strong. I think everybody was just worried about the weight. I think they know I can be a good player, it's just having the stamina to stay on the field. So, I think that was one of my goals too because the more weight I lost, the better I felt on the field.
BWI: You mentioned the leadership aspect. You've actually been around now for a while. How have you changed and matured since you got here?
Ware: I feel like when I first got here, I was using the young thing as a crutch. 'He's a freshman. He's young.' But now I can't really use that anymore as a crutch. It's time to stop making excuses, start working hard, on the field and off the field with school and stuff like that. But, being a leader... I used to look up to Jared, Ollie, Abe and all those guys. Now, I'm looking down and I see a lot of younger guys on the defensive line. I'm like, 'Wow, I'm one of the older guys, now.' It's like, me, Jack, Dev and all those guys. So, it's cool to know that I have extra responsibilities. It's a challenge, but I like the challenge.
BWI: Is it strange to be in that position now?
Ware: Yeah, it's strange because I used to really look up to those guys. Now, I'm the older guy. I'm in the lockerroom, last week I'm like, 'Wow, it's time to put up or shut up.' So, I'm putting in work.
BWI: You're a guy that likes to have fun. You have that personality. Can you maintain that while still getting serious about the football stuff?
Ware: I was thinking about that myself. I think people know, when it's time to have fun and let loose, I can do that. But, I feel like people know and understand that when it's time to work, time to get serious, I can also do that. I think people understand that and they know that. It starts this spring. I gotta just work and do better as a team.
BWI: What do things look like for you personally on the line? Nose tackle, I assume. What does the competition look like?
Ware: Well, Coach Johnson told me starting would probably be Devon and Jordan, and then he told me he wanted me and Daquan to work at the twos, the second string three-tech and second string nose. So, I feel like if he has a third guy... everybody rotates, but he has three main guys at D-tackle that will rotate in and out. So, if I could just be that third string guy, I'm definitely working to be the starter. But, at this point, I really just want to get on the field a lot. So, I take what I can get.
BWI: How important is that to you to make that impact?
Ware: It's really important because when I first got here I wasn't really known as... I was a goof off, my weight, my grades, stuff like that. I feel like I've gotten it under control somewhat. I can't get my GPA to go really high but I'm really working hard with the grades and tutors and academic people and my weight, I'm down to 325. I want to get down to 315. We're all working hard. That's my thing. We have a lot of talent on this team and we feel we can go real far if everybody just works at it and everybody's on the same page.
BWI: Is that a better feeling having the state of mind that you have now?
Ware: Before I was unsure of what the coaches wanted from me, because you weren't really playing, so obviously, you don't really know what to expect. But now that coach Johnson told me he wants this out of me, he wants that out of me, I can look around and see I'm one of the older guys and be a leader, I feel like that helps with your confidence. I feel like confidence is everything. If you don't have confidence, you might be the best player on the team, but if you don't feel like that, then you're not really going to show it. Now that I feel like I have the backing and support, I feel like I can really go this year.
BWI: What about the relationship with Joe? Not that it was rocky but...
Ware: It wasn't rocky. Joe is a great guy. I think he likes me. I'm not a bad guy or nothing like that. It's just, you see stuff and the name is attached to it and say, 'Oh, what did he do again?' Even if it wasn't bad, just like missing a meeting or being late or something like that, he's real big on the little details. He was trying to get that across to everybody on the team, that it's the little things that carry over to the big things in life. Not just on the field but in life.
BWI: I got the impression that last season left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. Can you speak on that?
Ware: Nobody wants to have a 7-6 season. Nobody wants that, especially at Penn State. We're not used to it. We've had pretty good seasons since the 03-04 season. We've had pretty good seasons since then. We all got off on the wrong page. Everybody wasn't on the right page. I feel like this year, we're all on the right page. Last year, everybody was a little unsure. The coaches were unsure, the players, and we lost a lot of guys that played a lot of games for us. So, we had a lot of young talent unsure of themselves, and the coaches were unsure what they could do. So, I feel like now, the coaches have a better idea of what we can do as a team and we have a little more trust in the coaches, so I feel like everybody knows this is like a big year.
BWI: Does it bring you guys together? Not that leadership was an issue last year, but it seemed like you guys were disjointed a little bit?
Ware: Yeah, I feel like once you go from Sean Lee and Daryll Clark, they've been here as leaders for five years. You're going to lose them to... (it's not talking badly on Brett or Ollie). It's a dropoff. Even the players and the fans know Sean's a crazy... not a that crazy, but everybody listens to it. Daryll said it, last week I was talking to him, and he said Sean was like the enforcer. Not even Brackett and Ollie were bad captains, but you lose a lot of leadership.
BWI: You need someone to smack you around a little bit, right?
Ware: Right, right. Not, saying that they weren't. But they weren't Sean Lee. He's one of a kind.