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MAN OF HIS WORD
Ty Warren fulfills promise of earning A&M degree,
returning to Aggieland to make a difference
by Rusty Burson
12th Man Magazine
Defensive lineman Ty Warren had already informed former New England Patriots strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik of his plan to skip the team’s voluntary offseason program in the spring of 2010, and Woicik was not particularly pleased with Warren’s decision.
Warren’s next meeting was with Bill Belichick, the demanding, hard-driving and detail-oriented head coach of the Patriots, who was even more succinct regarding his disapproval of Warren’s reluctance to join the rest of the team in “voluntary” workouts that were viewed internally as rather mandatory.
Belichick reminded Warren that he’d be forfeiting a $250,000 bonus for going home to Bryan. Warren didn’t care about the bonus. He’d already made up his mind.
“Besides, it wasn’t a money thing,” Warren recalled recently. “It was a moral thing. I don’t think (the Patriots) agreed with my decision, but at that point I didn’t really care. I knew what the right thing was for me to do.”
The right thing at that time for Warren was to return to Texas A&M to finish his degree. Belichick could understand Warren’s desire to finish what he started and fulfill the vow he made to himself, his mother, his grandparents and many others who played positive and influential roles in Warren’s life as he was raised in Bryan.
What the head coach could not understand was why Warren was so intent on returning to the Brazos Valley to finish his coursework.
“(Belichick said), ‘Ty, there are 15 colleges up here where you can go finish your degree,’” Warren recalled. “I said, ‘Coach, none of them say Texas A&M.’ At that point the conversation kind of got real, and he said that we won’t be able to pay you a bonus. But I knew that when I walked in his office. From that point on, I just went back and finished school. I’m so glad that I did because now I get so many chances to talk to kids and tell them about how important it is to get your education.
“It’s very important for me to be able to say that I valued that degree enough to come back and get it. And when I talk about doing things for the right reasons and that there are much more important things than money, I’ve got that example.”
Warren, who walked the stage and picked up his degree in agricultural leadership and development in May 2011 during the NFL lockout, has a ton of other examples at his disposal, as well. Warren made quite a name for himself as a football player at Texas A&M and during a 10-year career with the Patriots and Broncos.
But his reputation involves so much more than football. The 2003 first-round draft pick of the Patriots is a devoted husband to his high school sweetheart, Kesha, and a doting father of four daughters (Brionna, Brielle, Bailey and Brooklyn). He’s a successful businessman in the community, investing in real estate and overseeing operations at Outback Ranch, a high-end cattle operation in Central Texas (www.outbackshowcattle.com). He’s also extremely involved in the community, speaking regularly to groups and children’s organizations.
Warren, the recipient of the Patriots’ Ron Burton Community Service Award in 2007, became a fan favorite in Boston because of his on-the-field consistency and his fervent, off-the-field focus on charitable work. Warren became known as one of those rarest of rare professional athletes who actually welcomed the opportunity to serve as a role model.
Of course, doing the right things is nothing new for Warren. He was committed to that fundamental principle long before he began making big money in the NFL.
Back on Sept. 23, 2002, for example, Warren, then a senior at A&M, awoke before dawn, began his weight workout at 6, attended classes from 8 to 11, participated in two tutoring sessions, spoke at the football press conference in the afternoon regarding being named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts in the Virginia Tech game two days earlier, spent much of the afternoon watching video tape of Louisiana Tech—the upcoming opponent on the A&M schedule—and made it home in time to change for his wedding.
Yes, his wedding. At about 4:30 that afternoon, Warren was married to the former Kesha Drayton, whom he first met back in their days at the Bryan Boys and Girls Club.
“That was a long day,” acknowledged the big-hearted Warren. “But it was also a very meaningful day I will never forget. We thought about waiting to get married (until after the NFL Draft in April 2003), but it was important to us to do it then.”
While waiting for the wedding would have probably made financial sense, it did not seem like the right thing to do. Warren’s first daughter, Brionna, was born on July 24, 2002, and each time he gazed into his infant daughter’s eyes, he felt more certain about not waiting for a big wedding ceremony.
“First and foremost, I wanted to be there for my kids and be a positive example for my girls,” said Warren, who turned 33 on Feb. 6. “My wife and I sat down a long time ago, and we both agreed that by the time our oldest was 10, we wanted to get settled back at home. I’m happy to be back. I really don’t miss the NFL. I had a good career (that ended in 2012) and was fortunate enough to be part of two Super Bowl championship teams and three teams that reached the Super Bowl.
“But I knew I wanted to be back here raising the kids, away from the superficial lifestyles that the NFL tends to create. I’m not bashing it, but it is not realistic in terms of some of the stuff that goes on. I got to the point where I was like, ‘I need to finish (playing once and for all) and get on with the rest of my life and doing what is really important.’”
Warren, who compiled 374 career tackles and 20.5 sacks in 10 NFL seasons, only played one game with the Broncos, as he missed the ’11 season and most of 2012 with severe injuries. But the former defensive captain of the Patriots was ready to hang up the cleats by then. In addition to spending more time with his own kids, he wanted to return to Bryan to be a positive influence on the kids who are being raised on the same tough streets where he once lived.
Warren was a warrior on the field, but his heart is even bigger than his 6-foot-6, 300-pound frame.
“I’ve been on the other end of the spectrum, being raised in a single-family home, where what we earned wasn’t enough to provide for me and my two siblings,” said Warren, who is the nephew of former A&M star running back Curtis Dickey. “I’ve always wanted to do what I could to help others.
“I still remember being with my grandparents, who stayed in a little shotgun house that they pieced together back in the day. They were hard-working folks. I love them to death. They are the reason I am the person that I am today. They just taught me to say yes ma’am and no ma’am; they taught me about work ethic; and they encouraged me to go after my dreams. But I also had a lot of other people, like (former Bryan High head football coach) Marty Criswell and (former assistant coach) Sam Smith, who made a difference in my life and led me to A&M. People who know my story know that I barely got into A&M.”
Warren worked extremely hard to raise his core curriculum grades in high school and then took the SAT three times. Many universities that had shown interest in him early in his high school career gave up on Warren because it seemed like a long shot that he would ever raise his grades high enough to be eligible. But plenty of work and the right motivation made all the difference.
“Coach Smith was like a father to me in many ways, and I was working every job I could early in high school, bussing tables at Mr. Gatti’s, working at Taco Bell, doing odd jobs at the Boys & Girls Club and the Lincoln Center and so forth,” said Warren, who accounted for 144 tackles and 13 sacks during his career at A&M (1999-2002). “I made enough money to buy an old Chrysler for $300, and I spent so much time and money trying to keep that car running.
“One day, Coach Smith pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey Ty, you can put all that money and time into this old car or you can focus all your attention and work ethic on your grades and one day own a vehicle that is worth $50,000 to $60,000. You are going to sacrifice your time one way or another, but if you really want to invest in yourself and your future, get your grades, get to college and get your life on track. That advice stuck with me, and I took the focus off of trying to support my family and trying to get that Chrysler to run. I focused on my grades over the next three years and managed to get into A&M. I always think back to that advice and hope that maybe I can make a difference in someone’s life by sharing my perspectives.”
Mission accomplished. Warren has already made a major difference in the lives of countless youngsters from Boston to Bryan. While there’s been more celebrated football player to come through Aggieland, there’s probably no better role model to ever come out of A&M than Ty Warren. No matter the situation, Warren is committed to doing the right thing.
Always has. Always will.