SANTA CLARA, Calif. — For DeMarcus Ware, this moment was 11 years in the making.

The Broncos outside linebacker knows better than anyone how fleeting these opportunities can be. Now that the 33-year-old is set to play on the biggest stage of his life, he’s determined not to squander his chance. While the football world focuses on the possible final days of Peyton Manning’s illustrious career, Ware is soaking in the atmosphere of Super Bowl 50 and hoping to close out his second season with Denver with some championship hardware.

“For me, it felt like it was a long time coming, because I’ve predicated my career on consistency,” said Ware, who spent nine years of his distinguished career in Dallas. “Every year, you always feel like you’re going to make the Super Bowl, but you weren’t able to finish it out. You have to cherish where your feet are, you have to live in the moment and it’s an experience for you, but it’s still work.”

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Ware has teamed with Von Miller to form one of the best pass-rushing tandems in the NFL. But the duo will need to have its best performance Sunday against the Panthers’ dual-threat quarterback.

“Cam Newton is a challenge,” Ware said, referring to Newton’s strong arm, accuracy and elusiveness. “He’s one of those guys where he’s sort of two players in one.”

Chasing down Newton is a job he’ll happily accept. After years of disappointment in Dallas, Ware is ready to capitalize. He said Broncos general manager John Elway sold him on playing in his revamped defense during his free-agency pitch two years ago.

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“He always talked about the Orange Crush and how they played and he always said, ‘Defense wins championships,’ ” Ware said. “And I’m on board with that.”

Ware said those years with the Cowboys were “the fundamental blocks” that helped him reach this milestone. “Those times of not making the playoffs or making the playoffs and losing, and now you can see 11 years in how important it is,” he said. “You work just a little bit harder to get to this point and you sort of let the guys know how important it is and just go from there.”

After years of failed expectations, Ware is hoping for a different outcome.

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“Some guys, when they’re young, their rookie season they get to make the Super Bowl,” he said, then noted that former Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez played 17 seasons without a Super Bowl appearance. “But it’s hard. So this right here, it’s big. This is what all competitors, all NFL players, look for and play for.”