Archive for Thursday, April 20, 2006

St. Mary’s good fit for Lansing’s Warner

April 20, 2006

Matt Warner spent most of his life crafting his football skills in Lansing.

From playing Parks and Recreation league flag football as a 6-year-old to becoming the starting quarterback on the Lansing High varsity football team as a junior and senior, Warner has been a household name on the local football scene.

Now he's taking his game a few blocks down the road to play at the NAIA level at the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth.

"It's a big step in life," Warner said of the chance to play college football. "It's a whole new world, and I'm ready for it."

Warner has been preparing to be a college football player since the first day he strapped on his flags for a youth game at the city park under the watchful eye of his father, John Warner.

"He loves watching football, and he loves teaching me how to play," Matt said of his father.

During his playing days, John Warner was recruited to West Point as a linebacker and quarterback. He ultimately played linebacker for the U.S. Military Academy. The values and leadership skills he learned in the Army were ones he eventually would teach to his son.

"At West Point, you get all of the leadership stuff," John Warner said, "and I tried to put that through to him. It's about having a hard-work ethic."

John Warner trained his son to work hard, and he also made sure his son learned the fundamentals of the game.

"I quickly learned that it's all about the fundamentals," John Warner said. "You have to get the fundamentals before you can go to the next level. You don't necessarily have to be the best athlete, but if you've got the fundamentals, then you've got a chance of playing."

In addition to experiencing the results of his hard work first-hand through successful Parks and Rec and middle school teams, Matt Warner also learned the importance of hard work and commitment from his older sister, Megan, who was a member of Lansing High's 2002 state championship volleyball team.

"He really came up through his sister, too," John Warner said. "He got to watch her quite a bit, and a lot of learning went on there."

As Megan was finishing up her high school career, Matt's was just beginning. He found steady playing time on the basketball and tennis teams, but football remained his first love. He quickly ascended the ranks from freshman team to junior varsity. He began his junior season as the starting varsity quarterback.

LHS started the 2004 season 0-2 as Warner learned how to read defenses. Once he found his groove, however, the Lions won eight games in a row before finishing the season 8-3. Warner completed 76 of 170 passes for 1,036 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Motivated to do better, Warner didn't miss a single day of summer weights. In fact, he often dragged teammates out of bed and drove them to the gym to work out.

"It's not how hard the coaches push you. It's how hard you're willing to push yourself," Warner said of his view of off-season conditioning.

The hard work in the summer paid off in the fall when Warner threw for 1,405 yards and 17 touchdowns. Lansing won the Kaw Valley League championship and posted a 9-2 record. Warner was the top passer in the league and earned honorable mention All-State honors.

Warner's consistent play caught the eyes of college coaches. Finally, he decided to stay close to home and opted to play at USM for second-year coach Lance Hinson.

"I'm looking forward to the faster-paced game," Warner said. "It was fun in high school, but outside of when we played Holton, I saw pretty much the same coverages every game. I'm sure college will be different."

Two senior quarterbacks are on the USM roster, but Warner will be next in line.

"(Hinson) says I have to fight for a spot from the start," Warner said. "I'm just hoping I can get some playing time here in the near future. I don't want to sit the bench too long. Either way, it will be different, and it will be fun."

An equally strong performer in the classroom, Warner is a member of LHS Leadership and National Honor Society. Warner said he plans to major in mathematics and then pursue a degree in meteorology.

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