All in the Family

Matt Ware in a picture taken as a defensive back at UCLA.

Malibu natives and brothers, Matt and Aaron Ware, are being taken places by the game they love. Matt plays football for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and Aaron will do the same at UCLA next season.

By Kevin Connelly/Special to The Malibu Times

There has been much bustle in Beantown in recent weeks about the job the New England Patriots did in willing themselves to back-to-back Super Bowl titles. And Tinseltown has its own darling back-to-backers in the University of Southern California Trojans football team, winners of consecutive national championships.

But what most in these sprawling metropolises do not realize is Malibu-a beachfront town with a mere population of 13,000 -has beaten them to the punch.

In the early to mid-1980s, when the Patriots were more synonymous with the pedestrian and the USC football program was annually struggling to creep into the top 25, Malibu residents Bernard and Julie Ware were busy giving birth to two sporting stars.

Matt Ware, the eldest of the two athletes at 22 years old, is a meager one for one: One season in the National Football League, one Super Bowl appearance. Ware is a 6-foot, 2-inches, 215-pound first-year player who plays defensive back and special teams for a Philadelphia Eagles team that finished 12-4 in the 2004-2005 regular season. As a rookie, Ware appeared in 12 regular season games, finishing up with 13 tackles and a pass deflection.

Ware’s first NFL game was Oct. 17 against the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers in which he had both a defensive and a special teams tackle.

After playoff victories of 27-14 and 27-10 over the Minnesota Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons respectively, the Eagles took on the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville, Fla. With the game tied at 14-14 in the third quarter, Ware deflected a pass from Patriot quarterback and two-time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Tom Brady. The pass was intended for Patriot receiver Deion Branch, who won his own Super Bowl MVP award shortly after.

On arguably the biggest of all sports stages, the prime time of prime times, with millions tuning in from around the world, a camera zoomed in on Ware as the former Malibu resident beamed through his facemask.

It was the third-round pick’s moment to shine as an individual, but this is not the type of man Ware projects himself to be. He was quick to deflect personal praise and eager to demonstrate his team-first approach to the game.

“I was just glad I got the opportunity to play on defense,” he said. “That’s the best part about going to the Super Bowl for me. I was able to contribute in the game and help my team. That’s what’s most important to me.”

Matt seems to have maintained a semblance of humility as he moves up the ranks in the NFL. His mother, Julie, suggested as much in a telephone interview. “Matt is still the same young man he was [before he left for the NFL],” the mother of two said. “Not two days go by without Matt calling us on the phone. He still keeps in touch with his brother, his grandma and his auntie.

“We want Matt to always remember his roots [as he more and more becomes a public figure],” she continued. “He should always attempt to project a positive image of himself.”

When asked which NFL player past or present he wanted to emulate his game after, Ware briefly paused, made it clear he wanted to blaze his own trail in the game and then said it would have to be one of his teammates, nine-year NFL veteran free safety Brian Dawkins. His reason: “He’s just a professional.”

Dawkins and Ware are both professional NFL athletes now, but this would probably not be the case if they weren’t introduced to the game at an early age and provided the proper tutelage. Ware began playing football as an adolescent in Malibu’s own L.A. Westside Youth Bruin Football League. Revealing his Southern California roots in his dialect, Ware commended the program.

“The Bruin League was huge, man,” he said. “I hadn’t played [organized] football at all at that point. It was definitely a step in the right direction.”

John Mills, who also coached, founded the League in 1987.

“The Bruin League gives kids in Malibu and the Pacific Palisades a chance to play football,” Mills said. “It is amazing to see what tackle football has done to some of these kids’ lives.”

Other noteworthy athletes who have played football in the Bruin League include current Buffalo Bills quarterback J.P. Losman, current UCLA Bruin quarterback David Koral and Matt Ware’s own brother, Aaron Ware.

The 18-year-old Aaron Ware is a similarly gifted athlete who will follow in his brother’s footsteps-Matt played for three seasons at UCLA before entering the NFL draft-and play defensive back for the UCLA Bruins next season. As a running back at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village last season, Aaron compiled 1,079 yards rushing on 124 carries, an impressive 8.7 yards per carry. He had as many touchdowns (14) as games played.

Aaron’s older brother sings his praises. “I am very, very proud of Aaron,” Matt said. “He is a hard-working kid. He has a lot of heart, which is why he is going to go so far. I’m going to work with him when I can, but he’s going to live and learn on his own. He’s going to blaze his own trail.

“Aaron is different than I am,” Matt continued. “He is a really studious kid. He could easily have a second life after football. He is very well spoken. He could be a politician or something.”

Aaron eventually wants to pursue broadcasting. He plans to major in communications at UCLA.

Aaron said he and Matt still talk two to three times a week. He said they talk about football and life, jokingly adding, “Football is life.”

Aaron said he would like to one day play football in the NFL like his brother.

“If it God’s will, yes,” Aaron said. “I have to stay healthy. It’s really too early now to tell. I really can’t predict the future.”