Q&A With: Donnie Warren

Donnie Warren is an original Hog and still proud of it. The ex-tight end is also ninth on the Redskins' all-time receiving list with 244 catches, dropping only one spot since he retired after the 1992 season, his 14th with Washington. But Warren has moved on and he's done well: he's the head baseball coach at Centreville (Va.) High School. Last season, he guided the Wildcats to the state semifinals. Here's what he learned from coach Joe Gibbs and what he thinks of the current Redskins.

Q: What did you learn from Joe that you use when coaching?

A: The big thing is, especially with Joe, is just hard work. As far as practice we have a regimented practice and do a lot of things and get down to work. We don't spend four hours out here. It's short and sweet and we get down to business. That's the biggest thing I take from Joe.

Q: What are some of the little things from him you find yourself using?

A: You find yourself all the time just talking about the little things. Baseball is totally diferent from football but at the same time you've got human beings and you have individuals playing the game. Another big thing with Joe was that he was such a people person, he looked for good guys, hard workers, good kids in the community. That's what we look for: kids who get good grades. We expect them to get good grades. If you look around a lot of these kids are good kids. They don't give us any problems. That relates too.

Q: Are people surprised you became a baseball coach? Your wife once told me you couldn't hit a curve.

A: That's what my dad told her. That's all I did: I played baseball and football. I was in All-Stars all the way up in baseball. I love baseball. When Blake, my oldest son, started playing that's what got me going. My middle son got into it too. I love the game. I'm not going to say I know everything about the game because I don't. But I think I'm a good coach, whether it's football or baseball. I know how to make adjustments.

Q: Your son Blake redshirted this past fall as a Virginia Tech freshman. How is he doing?

A: I went Saturday and watched him scrimmage. They moved him up to second team linebacker. It's been a whole fall of being the backup scrubs for the offense, getting his head kicked in and not learning too much. Now he's getting taught stuff and learning. His big thing is he has to get stronger. He's still 6-foot-3 1/2, and he went there at 205 and now he's at 222. 'Backer for them, you have to do coverage stuff, which fits in good for him. At free safety here, we had a lot of man coverage. It's a great position; its' a fun position. He absolutely loves it. He loves the coaching staff and the school. I might miss my bet, but in a year and a half or two years he could be a hell of a football player. I'm not afraid to say this: he's got a lot more talent than I ever had. He's faster than I am. He's got better hands than me. I had a superior work ethic. I was a 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. guy. I worked my butt off. That's what he has to get. I think he's starting to see it now. They pushed him up to second string and he can see the light. He can think, 'Man if I push myself here I've got a chance to play at Virginia Tech.' I consider that to be one of the top top programs in the United States. He got that Gator Bowl ring and he was excited about that. I pray he stays healthy, but I think he'll be a hell of a player.

Q: How much recognition do you still get? How much do you enjoy it?

A: It's funny, when I used to go out, I'd walk into a bar or a restaurant and stick out because of my size. Then people see you because you're on TV and say, 'Oh, that's Donnie Warren.' That doesn't happen a lot anymore. My face isn't on the tube a lot. But people still recognize me when I go out. It makes you feel good and shows you that you did a lot around here. I played in four Super Bowls and won three. You hate to say it, but the way the Redskins are playing now . . . the people that come up to me, the first thing they say is, 'Can you play tight end still? Can you get out there.' Let me tell you something guys, there's no way I could go out there. No way. But the way they're playing now, the fans still latch onto us. They like the old guys and they like the Hogs. They really do recognize the Hogs.

Q: People probably realize how unique that group was. I guess you can't duplicate that?

A: And you never will. I can tell you the reason is because of free agency, you'll have guys playing for the Redskins for four years then something will happen and they'll lose them. And you can't blame them because of the way the money is. I'm number nine on the all-time Redskins receiving list and you know something, I probably won't be moved. Westbrook's been there for 7 years. I couldn't believe that. He hasn't caught a lot of balls and he's been hurt. There's a lot of turnover. I think I'm tied for 6th in all-time games played for a Redskin with Len Hauss (and tied for fourth in years played at 14). You won't find any 14-year vets playing for the Redskins. You might see someone play for 10 years. The only reason Darrell Green is around is because he's part of the old crowd and they just keeping him going. But you won't find that anymore.

Q: What do you think of what's transpired there in the last few years?

A: In the last few years they've had a ton of inconsistency--they had a lot of guys hurt like Tre Johnson. You need guys to be in there. I have to be next to Joe Jacoby because I know where he will be. If Joe is hurt and I've got someone else in there . . . I don't even have to look because I knew by Joe's footwork where he would be. And I knew where he would be on every play and that I knew where I had to be. Little stuff like that makes a huge difference. We had one year where we gave up nine sacks. That's unbelievable, especially nowadays. That's what I mean by inconsistency, a lot of hurt players. They're not holding onto the good players. To be a top-notch organization, you've got to hold onto your good players. They have to want to play for you. They have to stay in this area and work out and stay on the field. I'm a little concerned that guys are getting paid so much damn money that they don't have that drive. When we first started out we're making $100,000 or $225,000 or $250,000. That's chicken feed to these guys. We felt like, 'Good god that's a lot of money.' I can't tell you how many guys we had play hurt. We knew by the man that if I'm not out there on the field someone else will be in there taking my place and I could be flipping burgers at McDonald's.

Q: Recently, you can't tell if some of these players won or lost by their demeanor on Mondays. Was it different under Gibbs?

A: Let me tell you something. Under Gibbs, I tell these guys here that if you lose two games under him he's having some ass. He's calling you in and he's having one on one meetings and he's laying the law. He's saying this is big business pal, if you want to be here and be part of this program, you'd better pick it up. I've heard other Redskins coaches in the past say, 'We're not playing too bad. We're doing all right.' Let me tell you something if some coach comes to me and says that, it's going to breed mediocrity. If I keep hearing it, I think that he's not pissed at me. He says we're playing all right so why don't I go out and do the same thing. Joe wouldn't stand for that. And he would tell you face to face. I can't imagine Joe after 3-4-5 losses. He would be killing people. He got the most out of his players. That's what was so great about him.

Q: What do you think about what's happened the last few months, hiring Spurrier, etc.?

A: He made points with me when he came in and he said he was a big fan of Joe's and he got behind that. I think the guy will be tough to stop. I hope he works the tight end in there. I don't care what you do, the double twins and splitting guys out. When you get close to the goal line, a lot of that stuff doesn't work. Atlanta tried that stuff. You've got to get a tight end down in there. But he's a good coach. I think this will be really exciting. I haven't been this excited about the Redskins until he came. The only thing, and I'm just looking at offense, I think they'll be able to get receivers. But you need that line. You've got the bookends with the tackles but I'm really, really concerned about the center and the two guards. I thought Cory was all right. We won three Super Bowls and went to four. We had four different quarterbacks. What does that tell you? It tells you the offensive line is very, very important. It's something where you need a lot of consistency and those guys need to play together for a few years. I love Jansen. I think he's a great tackle and he's a throwback. He's an ornery cuss. He goes after people. He plays like us. And Samuels is just a bad-ass. He's a great physical specimen. He's the whole thing. And I've watched Bruce Smith go against him and this kid toys with Bruce. Those two guys will be, if they can keep them here and build around them . . . And you've got to get a quarterback.

John Keim covers the Redskins for The Journal Newspapers. Last spring, The Journal selected Warren as its baseball Coach of the Year. His Wildcats are currently 7-3 and 2-0 in their district.


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