A look back - Don Warren

Don Warren would be the first and perhaps only person to question whether he had enough skills to play in the National Football League. Washington's fourth-round draft choice in 1979, the tight end felt he had to continually prove himself in order to stay on the Redskins' roster.

"I did whatever I could to be the best player that I could be because I don't think I had all that much talent," said Warren. "I had to work a lot harder to stay in the game and be consistent."

Warren stayed in the game through the 1992 season, a 14-year career. He is one of only three men to play in three different decades with the Redskins. The Covina, Calif., native says there were a few reasons why he was able to suit up for 194 regular season games. "My work habits. Number two would be (Washington's longtime strength coach) Dan Riley, by keeping me going and in shape and as strong as he did throughout the years. The third was winning and actually going to four Super Bowls in those 14 years.

"It just so happened that it got kind of spread out where I went to two early in my career (XVII - ‘82, XVIII - ‘83), one in the middle (XXII - ‘87) and one at the end (XXVI - ‘91). It's like you don't want to try to fix something that's not really broken."

Head coach Joe Gibbs didn't actually have a lot to fix around Redskin Park. He had put together a core of coaches and players who shared a philosophy and, in turn, shared success. It was a favorable reflection of Gibbs and as it turned out, the right combination.

"I think that was probably the big thing. It was really different than it is now. You had a lot more unity and a lot more loyalty because guys were staying with one team a lot longer," Warren said. "I think that's what really helped us out. We were able to keep our line basically together other than a couple of guys. Which as everybody sees now is really crucial.

"We just had blue collar guys and we were all, you hate to say the old cliche that we were all family, but we really were. We really watched out for each other's back. It wasn't like we just went to practice and went home and treated it as a job. We had a lot of fun. We really backed each other up and I think that made a difference."

A more specific group on the team that backed each other up and made a difference was known as the "Hogs." One of the charter members, Warren was mildly surprised at how popular they became with the fans and the media.

"If we had been a 1-15 team, nothing would have ever been said. The only reason it got to be so big was because we were successful as a line and we went to all those Super Bowls."

During Warren's career, the Redskins only experienced one losing season. And for 12 of his 14 years, he was coached by Gibbs. But surprisingly, the pair didn't talk too often. "I think it was a good relationship. He knew where I stood and I knew what he wanted in a player," said Warren, who ranks eighth on the team's all-time reception list with 244 catches. "He wanted somebody just to not make a lot of errors, not make a lot of mistakes. Just perform hopefully to the best of my ability. What he basically was looking for was somebody who was consistent."

Consistency. Warren, who follows the Redskins closely, feels that is something the current club could definitely use.

"It's kind of hard to go out there and be consistent if you have a lot of penalties or a lot of turnovers. That's what Gibbs tried to stress to us. His big thing also was not putting yourself over the team and being selfish. I think a lot of time, that creeps up now in games when I watch them on TV," he said. "You see somebody that's a real high-priced player and they go more for the notoriety of ‘Yeah, I cheap-shotted this guy and got a 15-yard penalty. So what?'"

Warren continued. "Let me tell you something. If you did that with Gibbs, he would have let you know that you're being a really selfish player and let the team down. And ultimately, it probably cost you a win."

Today, the 43-year-old Warren and his wife Irene are watching their three sons — Blake, 16; Brett, 14; and Beau, 11 — try to win their football and baseball games. For the last five years, he has coached at Centreville High School in Clifton, Va. In addition, he coaches youth football and Little League.

"That's one thing that's really been great since I've gotten out (of professional football). I've been able to spend a lot more time with these guys, coaching them and watching their games. It's been awesome to be able to spend time with them and watch them grow up."


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