Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Hopewell's Warren is Bound For Howard
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Jan 28, 2013, 14:59

Hopewell High School senior Howard Warren (71) looks to block a Dinwiddie pass rusher as quarterback Reggie Butler (right) drops back during a Central Region Division 5 playoff game on Nov. 16. Warren, a four-year varsity starter and two-way lineman, gave a verbal commitment to play at Howard University next fall (photo by David Breidenbach).

HOPEWELL – On the strength of its high-powered offense, the Hopewell High School football team made a run to the Central Region Division 5 championship game last year.

While the Blue Devils’ stable of skill players basked in the glory of the upstart team’s breakout season, a talented core of linemen plied their trade in relative obscurity.

“Those linemen don’t get a lot of the credit, but they were really the anchor of our football team,” said Hopewell coach Ricky Irby. “We gave them credit. Our players and coaches knew it all started up front.”

This week, those unheralded efforts paid dividends for one of the Blue Devils’ trench men. Senior Howard Warren, a four-year starter and two-way lineman, verbally committed to play on the offensive line at Howard University next fall.

Hopewell senior Howard Warren (71) applies pressure to Dinwiddie quarterback Ronald Kearney (11) during a Central Region Division 5 playoff game on Nov. 16 (photo by David Breidenbach).
“It feels great,” Warren said. “It was a big scramble over the last month trying to figure out which school I wanted to go to. My coaches and I all talked about it, and after taking a few visits Howard was pretty much my first choice.”

The 6-foot-4, 260-pound stalwart – who boasts a 6-foot-9 wingspan and a 3.3 grade point average – picked the Bison from a stack of college suitors.

Warren also had a standing offer to attend Saint Augustine’s while Norfolk State, Christopher Newport, Shepherd and Furman all had expressed interest.

Warren said HU’s proximity to home played a big role in his decision and described the Washington, D.C.-based team as a program on the upswing. Under the leadership of second-year coach Gary Harrell, the Bison posted records of 5-6 and 7-4 in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

The Football Championship Subdivision team – which finished second in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference last year – has come a long way since finishing 1-10 in 2010.

“To see an up-and-coming program similar to what [Hopewell was] this year lets you know that they have some good things coming their way,” Warren said.

The common name, he insisted, was coincidental.

“Everybody keeps asking me if I committed to Howard because my name is Howard,” Warren said with a laugh. “Not at all. The school and the coaching staff are great and they showed me the most love.”

Warren played in every game this season and did not give up a sack at left tackle. On defense, he racked up 54 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

While Warren thrived on both sides of the ball in high school, he said focusing on offense will allow him to sculpt his frame appropriately. Last season, Warren was considerably lighter than most college starters at his position.

Efforts to put on weight while preserving his trademark athleticism and technique are well underway, he said.

“The concern was always my weight,” Warren said. “But I’ve definitely put on a good amount of weight since the season ended. I was 238 pounds and now I’m 260, but it’s lean weight. I’ve been in the weight room and eating right.”

Aside from his physical attributes, Warren is working hard to sharpen his footwork, hand placement and on-field decision making. His off-field decision making is already up to par, according to Irby.

While Warren received First Team All-Central District recognition for his efforts on the gridiron last year, he also was an all-academic honoree. Irby said Warren “set the tone” for his fellow student-athletes.

“He’s a shining example of what you can do if you have the size and ability as well as the character to go along with it,” Irby said. “He’s going to go to college for free and play football. Not many kids can say that.”

Warren, who played for longtime Hopewell coach Marshall Parker as a freshman, was a team captain and a member of the Blue Devils’ leadership council as a senior. Just as his run blocking improved with every outing, Irby said his leadership skills saw steady growth.

Warren said the senior-laden Blue Devils came into training camp eager to atone for a disappointing 2011 season that saw them go 3-7 overall, 2-5 in district play.

“We actually had a lot of people who believed we could do something that season,” Warren said. “So it was kind of tough. Coming into my senior year, we all got together in the summer time and said, ‘This is it. It’s now or never.’”

The Blue Devils opted for the former, and they did so decisively. Hopewell won six of its last seven games – including a 47-28 victory over Dinwiddie in the region semifinals – before falling to Hanover in the title game.

“Hopewell High School hasn’t been that far since 2004,” Warren said. “So it was a big accomplishment to make an imprint like that on the school.”

Warren, who is mulling a major in business, will be looking to do the same when he arrives on Howard’s campus this summer.

And Irby likes his chances.

“I think he’s going to do awesome,” Irby said. “He may redshirt his first year up there just to put some more weight on, but they’re going to get a steal. Their program will be better in four years because he’s been there. I really believe that.”

Asked whether that was the case with his up-and-coming Blue Devils program, Hopewell’s third-year coach responded, “Absolutely.”

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