This happy childhood ended for Andre at age seven, when Robert died of viral pneumonia. He was 30. "I remember the funeral as if it were yesterday," Andre says. "I didn't grasp what was going on. I kept thinking, He's going to wake up. I was young. I guess I just hoped."
Joyce tried to fill the void by getting even closer to Andre. They shot marbles on the living room carpet and went gokarting. She made a point of never talking about Robert's death. "Andre and I were so close and did so much together," she says. "I kept him from being sad and lonely. I was always there for him."
But Andre says, "I missed having a father. When I started playing Little League baseball, a lot of the other kids' dads would come to games, and I'd hear the guys talking about the stuff they did with their dads. It was hard on me. I used to sit in class in second grade and just cry. There will always be an emptiness there."
Eventually the Wares moved into a one-bedroom apartment. Joyce worked as a maid and bused tables at a local restaurant. Determined to provide a better life for Andre, she moved from job to job, saving as much as she could. "I was Andre's role model," Joyce says. "I didn't go to bars. I've never considered remarrying. I live each and every day for Andre."
Joyce, who admits being overly protective of her son, refused to let him play youth football, purposely showing up too late for the sign-up date two years in a row. She attended his high school games, but she found it difficult to watch him get tackled. Upon hearing on the radio that he had broken his left arm during a game in his first season at Houston, she almost fainted on the post office floor.
Ware has never shown any signs of being spoiled. The night he won the Heisman, he kept his promise to be the guest speaker at the Dickinson Little League football banquet. His Heisman Trophy sits under glass in the middle of the Citizens State Bank in downtown Dickinson. A few days after announcing he would enter the NFL draft, Ware helped out the Cougars by suiting up at quarterback for the scout team at a spring practice.
On the doorstep of becoming a millionaire, Ware has already made plans for spending his money. He doesn't want a fancy foreign car—he prefers his black '88 Mustang—and he plans to help fund improvements in Dickinson's recreational facilities and antidrug programs. Joyce has told Andre that she may want to keep sorting mail at the post office.
"My mom and I have shared a lot as the years have gone by," says Andre. "Because she had me when she was so young, I feel as though we've grown up together. Our relationship is more like brother and sister. We have no secrets; we tell each other everything. It's always been just the two of us, an invincible team."