Curt Warner: From Penn St. to the College Football Hall of Fame

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Warner240_0124Fran Ganter wasn’t sure what to make of the running back from little Pineville High School in West Virginia. Sure, the film clips were impressive and the statistics were eye-popping. But was Curt Warner all that? Or was the competition just weak?

“We didn’t have him for three days and we knew he was special,” Ganter said.

Three decades later, Warner’s stellar run for Penn State — a school-record 3,398 yards over four seasons — is again receiving special recognition.

Warner, who lives in Camas, WA, and owns Curt Warner Chevrolet in Vancouver, is a member of the 2009 class of inductees into the College Football Hall of Fame. He was among those honored at a dinner on Dec. 8 in New York City.

Ganter, now the Associate Athletic director for Football Operations at Penn State, was Warner’s position coach at Penn State from 1979-82. And he was a special guest honoring Warner’s legacy, delivering the keynote speech during the 18th-annual Clark County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame scholarship dinner, held January 20 at Hudson’s Bay High School.

The event also recognized the accomplishments of Southwest Washington high school football players, awarding scholarships to six senior high school football players.

In Warner, Ganter said, players have a role model they can emulate even if they don’t possess his ability to accelerate through a hole or elude defenders.

“We’re just so, so proud of him,” Ganter said of Warner’s selection to the hall of fame. “Just to see the kind of man, and father and businessman he’s become.”

Ganter remembered Warner as a freshman being early for study halls and meetings, sitting attentively in the front row.

Warner said the reason for his attentiveness was simple: “I didn’t want to sit and watch. I wanted to play. You envision yourself playing, you take the necessary steps to put yourself in a position to play. That was my approach.”

That approach, along with what Ganter described as a player with every tool a running back needs, produced a college career that included two Fiesta Bowl MVP awards and Penn State’s first national championship in the 1982 season.

“Football is a game where individuals are celebrated. But, make no mistake about it. Without the other 10 guys doing their job, the individual will not succeed,” Warner said. “It’s just not going to happen.”

Warner193_0124He led the AFC in rushing as a Seahawks rookie, and was a three-time Pro Bowler in his seven NFL seasons.

Warner was back at the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3, where he and his fellow 2009 College Hall of Fame inductees were introduced during pregame festivities.

That was one of four special events surrounding selection to the College Football Hall of Fame. There was a salute during a Penn State football game in September, and the formal recognition dinner in New York City in December. Warner and his 17 Hall of Fame classmates will be enshrined in July at the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Indiana.

“This is not some small event,” Warner said. “This is an event that only a few are going to be able to participate in. So, it is an honor, a privilege and a blessing. Their saying you’re one of the best of the best, which is an honorable thing to receive.”

During the recognition dinner on Dec. 8, Warner spoke on behalf of the entire class.

“The theme was about having a burning desire to get the job done — those intangibles that are the difference between being (selected for the hall of fame) and not being there,” Warner said of his brief speech. “It’s a very fine line that you have to really think about, with regards to why you’re there instead of someone else.”

Warner’s selection to the hall of fame is the product of a journey that took him from a small coal mining town — his father worked the mines for 40 years — to some of football’s biggest stages.

Twenty years removed from his playing days, Warner remains passionate about football. In addition to serving as an assistant football coach at Camas High School, he supports youth football programs and watches as much football as time allows.

“It’s kind of like a soap opera in about three hours,” Warner said, describing football’s attraction. “But it’s real life, and you don’t know what is going to happen. It’s scripted to a certain degree, but you still don’t know what the outcome is going to be, and that’s why you play the game.”

The College Football 2009 Hall of Fame class (Seahawks alumni in bold): Pervis Atkins (New Mexico State), Tim Brown (Notre Dame), Chuck Cecil (Arizona), Ed Dyas (Auburn), Major Harris (West Virginia), Gordon Hudson (Brigham Young), William Lewis (Harvard), Woodrow Lowe (Alabama), Ken Margerum (Stanford), Steve McMichael (Texas), Chris Spielman (Ohio State), Larry Station (Iowa), Pat Swilling (Georgia Tech), Gino Torretta (Miami, Fla.), Curt Warner (Penn State), Grant Wistrom (Nebraska); and coaches Dick MacPherson and John Robinson.