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Penn State Football: Curt Warner’s Son Hopes to Follow in Famous Father’s Footsteps

on May 15, 2012 10:30 PM

Curt Warner ran for more than 10,000 feet as a legendary running back at Penn State.

That’s a lot of footsteps to follow for Warner’s son, Jonathan, who is poised to play wide receiver as a freshman this fall at his dad’s alma mater.

Thirty years ago, the elder Warner was a two-time All-American who was a roommate and a backfield mate with Todd Blackledge, the Nittany Lions’ star quarterback.

That duo was instrumental in leading Penn State to a 31-5 record in three seasons, capped by the school’s first national championship in 1982.

Owner of 42 Penn State records at the time of his departure, Warner was the third overall pick of the Seattle Seahawks in the 1983 NFL Draft. Blackledge was taken four spots later by the Kansas City Chiefs.

Warner led the AFC in rushing as a 22-year-old rookie and was a three-time Pro Bowler when he retired after the 1989 season following seven seasons with the Seahawks and one with the Los Angeles Rams.

He was inducted into the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor in 1994 and enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame in December 2009.

Next month, Warner’s son, Jonathan, a member of the 2012 recruiting class, will graduate from Camas High School in the state of Washington. He then will make the long journey east to Penn State, where he will enroll for the start of the second session of summer classes.

And that’s when the comparisons really begin between Jonathan Warner, an unheralded 6-foot-1, 190-pound receiver, and his much more famous dad, who was Penn State’s all-time leading rusher until Evan Royster eclipsed Curt's career mark of 3,398 rushing yards in 2010.

“Obviously, it helps that Jonathan’s a receiver and not a running back,” Curt was saying by phone Tuesday afternoon. “It would be extremely difficult for him to be at Penn State if he were a running back. That would be a lot of extra pressure.

“But he’s playing a different position, there’s a new regime in place there and it’s the start of a new era. I think he’s excited about the possibilities, excited about the opportunity to play for my alma mater. He has been hearing me rave about Penn State for years.”

Unlike his dad, who was one of the most highly recruited prep players coming out of high school in West Virginia, Jonathan was a late bloomer who is rated a two-star prospect by all the major recruiting services.

He didn’t become a full-time starter until his senior season, when he had 48 catches for 775 yards and was named all-region. He also caught 11 touchdown passes while helping lead Camas to the Class 3A state semifinals.

Penn State’s former coaching staff had expressed interest in Warner prior to Joe Paterno being fired Nov. 9 in wake of the child sex abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky.

Only Montana State and Montana were pursuing Warner when his dad picked up the phone and called defensive line coach Larry Johnson, one of two holdovers from the previous staff.

Curt then sent some video highlights of his son to Johnson. After watching them, Johnson called and offered Jonathan a scholarship and invited him to University Park for a visit.

Jonathan verbally committed to the Nittany Lions Jan. 22, the day Paterno died, after visiting Penn State’s campus that weekend with his dad.

“I played a lot of football and I played in the NFL,” Curt said, “so I am as tough an evaluator on him as anybody. I am not going to water things down for him. He’s got a shot at Penn State now and he can either play or he can’t.

“If he’s not going to be able to cut it there in football, I am going to tell him. And if that’s the case, I’ll suggest to him that he go do something else, like play golf.”

That being said, Warner offers a pretty positive scouting report on his son, who likely will redshirt as a freshman.

“He’s tough and he’ll get in there and he’ll mix it up,” Curt said. “He doesn’t have problems catching ball in traffic. He’ll take the big hit. He can get down the field and that’s all you can ask.

“I think the work ethic stands out more than anything else.”

When the younger Warner signed his national letter of intent Feb. 1 to join Penn State’s Class of 2012, assistant head coach and wide receivers coach Stan Hixon offered nothing but praise when asked about Jonathan’s skills.

“What I saw is that he's an athlete and a player that has good size on him,” Hixon said. “He has pretty good speed. I wouldn't say he is a burner, but he has good speed, carries himself really well and he makes plays. He came here on his own merit, not just because of his father.

“Obviously, people on that side of the country knew about him, but on this side of the country they might not know much about him. Normally, you wouldn't recruit a guy from Washington in Pennsylvania, but there's a history, a family background and a tie there that makes you want to check into it.

“You check into it, you see what you like, you go for it.”

For Jonathan Warner, successfully succeeding his famous father will be quite a feat indeed.

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