Linebacker Cassius Ware joined Ole Miss for the 1992 and 1993 season, after a record setting JUCO career at NorthWest Mississippi Community College. Ware still holds the record for most tackles at NWCC in a single game with 24. He also holds the record at Ole Miss for the longest fumble return at 91 yards against Auburn.
Ware is originally from Batesville, MS, has one daughter and is in the fitness industry. His professional career included the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, the CFL’s Vancouver Lions and the Memphis Pharoahs.
The LSU – Ole Miss rivalry was fun when you were at Ole Miss. You guys really handled them 32-0 in 1992 in Jackson. Talk about how great that rivalry is as a Ole Miss player.
We never got to play LSU in Oxford. We played them in Jackson in 1992 and then Baton Rouge in 1993. There is just a lot of history between these two schools. That’s really how Coach Brewer motivated us. Its not always on Halloween now, but back then it was on Halloween night and it made a big difference. We just fed off of that.
The 1992 defense was a vaunted defense for sure, you had some big wins, you had “THE STAND”, but in 1993 you had the #1 defense in the country. You, Dewayne Dotson and Abdul Jackson were all over the field. How did you guys along with defensive coordinator Joe Lee Dunn get to that level.
My first year was also Joe Lee’s first year and we all needed to get a feel for Coach Joe Lee and his defense and how to play, what worked for us and how to play together. It took us 3 or 4 games to figure out where to be in his alignments. When we started to know the system, we watched a lot of film on other teams, we worked to find their weaknesses and it worked out.
Your first game at Ole Miss was an SEC game against Auburn. Talk about being thrown into a big time football with the nerves and the different experience of playing in the SEC. (Ole Miss won 45-21 in Oxford)
Wow, yea it was my first game. Northwest did prepare me for that game. We had just won the juco national championship. One of my best games was the last game for Northwest. At Ole Miss, I only got to practice 3 or 4 times before my first game (due to late clearance by the NCAA). My instincts just took over, I was in the best shape of my life and I just let it came natural to me.
Playing in front of that many people, and being on TV was a big shock to me. I never had that many mics in my face after a game. If you were there, you could just hear that crowd and I had never heard anything like that in my life. The first time I ever heard a crowd that loud was in my first SEC game.
I had a good game, like 8 tackles or so. I remember just all of a sudden I got that fumble recovery and ran it back all the way back. That was such a natural high. I asked Dwayne Dotson not so long ago, “Why did no one catch me?” That was the longest run I ever had in a game. I was just like “welcome to the SEC.” It was all down-hill from there. The defense just seemed to get better and better as we went along.
Alabama’s first trip ever to Oxford was in 1993. There was so much excitement to win this game. Starting QB Jay Barker gets injured and allowed David Palmer to get under center and saved the game for Bama. Talk about that day. (Alabama won 19-14 in Oxford)
We felt like we could beat Alabama that day. As a defense we quit worrying about what the offense was going to do. Joe Lee said we needed to just focus on our game and try to set up the offense and give us a chance to win. We turned it up a little bit that game. We had it under control, but David Palmer only needed a few plays. That was one of the best players I ever played against. He is just so hard to tackle. I think I made a few, 3 or 4 tackles, on him but he had a lot of us running into each other.
I think he made one pass late that really sort of broke our back. I think if we could have gotten just one more touchdown or stopped them once more, we would have had them. They (Bama) just the year before had won the national championship, but that year we were the #1 defense in the nation. But we just couldn’t quite make it.
Oxford as a city has changed so much since 1993 and the football program has grown and changed as well. How do you feel about the direction the team is moving now under Hugh Freeze
I went to two games last year and yeah, Oxford has grown so much. The new buildings and streets, some of those weren’t even thought about in 1992. And the (football) facilities are amazing. I had a chance to go to a Chucky Mullin’s dinner a few years ago and that was my first chance to get back since college. I had a chance to get out on the field and I just looked around and said, “Wow, look what we built!”
I can remember some days Coach Brewer used to say we didn’t need to practice inside, we can practice outside. We made it through, it wasn’t that bad. But now they have top notch facilities, as good as anywhere in the country. I think we are on the right track. We have made a lot of moves, we have put a few things behind us so we can compete for SEC and national championships too. If we can make that run through the SEC, you will probably be in-line for the national championship too.
If we just stay consistent, and keep everything going, the other teams will sometimes beat themselves. A lot of teams will over-look Ole Miss, and we have to be ready to rise up and take those games and give us a chance to play for a championship.
The Mississippi State game in 1992 is otherwise known as “THE STAND.” The defense just completely won that game, in the cold and the snow. Tell us about being a part of that, being in the huddle and on the field for such a great Ole Miss moment. (Ole Miss won 17-10 in Oxford)
That was at the end of my first season and we had come together as a strong team. We were like 8-3 at the time and at the top of our game. We had speakers come in and talk to us every day that week I think. So we were hyped, all week long. We had our game plan but sometimes the crowd and momentum can win games like that. It comes down to the end of the game and we knew we could hold them, but we just didn’t know it was going to be that intense. You look at the film now and you see, we didn’t get too excited or point fingers. We just stepped up every play. It’s hard when you have your back against that goalline to keep making plays.
We would go out and stop them and then our offense would fumble it right back to them. We didn’t complain or say too much, we just went out and stopped them again. Then I think there was a pass interference call, so here we go again. We just kept playing, one play at a time. We didn’t even really know how big that was until after the game and we started talking about it. A week later it starts to sink in how big that was.
So tell us what you are doing and where you are now.
I am back in the Memphis area. I lived out in Las Vegas for a while. I coached at UNLV for a year and worked with young athletes and fitness training. I decided I was ready to come back to the south and I will be doing youth sports training in the area to improve kids health and skills, no matter the sport.
We have a program to teach them the importance of practice and fundamentals. If a kid puts in the practice, catches 100 balls a day in practice, it will become second nature in a game. They need to learn every position on the field so they can understand how the team works together. I will also do some personal training for adults on occasion.