When you have such a lengthy list of players who’ve all worn one jersey number, sometimes the names all blur together. In this case, though, one #85 stood out to me, not just for his time with the Redskins, but for his time with the Wildcats.
Tight end Don Warren, suited up for only one team in his 14 year career in the NFL: the Washington Redskins. It was as a part of the Redskins that Warren found his niche as a member of the famed “Hogs” and went on to win three Super Bowls, appearing in a fourth in 1983. Warren was drafted by Washington with the 103rd overall pick (4th round) in 1979, and he played in 193 games, earning a career total of 244 receptions, 2,536 yards, and 7 touchdowns. He earned the nickname “The Dutchman” for his memorable haircut, and, on the field, Warren was respected as a receiver and celebrated, most especially, as a blocker.
Off the field and after he left the NFL, Warren was known by another nickname: Coach. That’s the first nickname I knew him by, anyways, as I was a little too young to remember watching Warren play in the burgundy and gold. Warren coached at my alma mater, Centreville High School, in Clifton, VA. His three sons attended the school, and he spent several years coaching football and baseball for the Wildcats. I remember my friends and I cheering for teams that he and his colleagues coached, and I know that people knew who Warren was and respected him, not only for his multitude of accomplishments in the pros, but for his drive and personality.
Those qualities are something that Coach Chris Haddock, Centreville’s current varsity head football coach, easily recalled about Warren when I asked. Haddock, a state-championship winning coach and the Redskins High School Coach of the Year (2011), coached against Warren when Haddock was at Fairfax and Chantilly High Schools. He praised Warren for being “extremely competitive and meticulous to detail” and helping “to put Centreville on the map from a football perspective,” traits which no doubt helped entice the Redskins organization to lure Warren back to be a scout in 2005. Warren, Haddock explained, “comes from a high level background, brought a work ethic to high school football coaching, [and] helped to elevate staff when he was here.”
Former football coach and now Director of Student Activities at Centreville, Jimmy Sanabria, agreed. “I never met a man that could be so detailed over the littlest things,” Sanabria reminisced, “and I think that's why we were champions.”
It’s a sentiment that was echoed by the players, as well. Nick Marley played tight end for the Wildcats and had the unique experience of being coached by Warren at the same position the Super Bowl champion played in the NFL. Marley commented that “as a kid, I idolized Donnie Warren because every year the Redskins tried to replace him, but Donnie always outworked whoever they brought in. He brought that attitude to coaching, so any kid who worked hard had a place on the team.”
Warren’s actions proved that he was more than just talk. He taught his fellow coaches and his players, Haddock recalled, that “if you want be good, there's a way to go about it.” Sounds to me like a valuable lesson, on and off the field.
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