Thousands of kids across the country right now know what it is like to be a Prep Football star who did not shine until their Senior Year. It is an annual event that leaves analysts and recruiters amazed at the talent level of the players who are still available this time of the year.
The fact is that most of these guys did not play for whatever reason until their Senior year and by that time America's colleges and universities are almost done recruiting. After all the race is on to go after Junior's who "blew-up" before making a move on what we in the biz call a rising Senior.
Within that dilemma for both the schools and the athletes are challenges and opportunities.
The facts are that when the High School season ends in December many All State and All Area kids are Seniors who never played a down their Junior year. Conversely many of those Juniors who convinced colleges they were the guy had lackluster years.
This leaves Colleges remorseful that they guessed wrong but in the impossible position where they can not discard a good kid they have been recruiting for a year or two. At the same time these schools would love to switch their thinking up and burn a scholarship on a Senior who actually ended his high school a better candidate then the guy they liked the year before.
Many athletes right now will hear these words and say "amen". Because the fact is that a good percentage of the Nations best go un-recruited and under-recruited due to this very phenomena and it is not changing anytime soon.
Camas High School's Jonathan Warner is one of those guys.
"I split reps with some Seniors ahead of me as a Junior at Wide Receiver and never really got much going. At least not enough to get noticed," said Warner who admits he was slower, 15 pounds lighter, and a far different athlete and person at that time. "That year I was willing to do anything to get on the field and just help the team."
But his determination was always there. He knew he had to step things up in the off season so he dedicated himself to training and building his once bony frame into a explosive and muscular machine. That job was turned over to Ryan Paul of New Athlete in Vancouver. Working with Coach Paul the youngster from Camas High allowed himself to be molded into the vision he explained to Paul that he had for himself.
"I explained to Ryan that I wanted to reach my potential so I could be able to attract Division 1 interest," said Warner. "What he did was let out of my shell. Somehow he could see what I was going to be even if I did not. He pushed me with drills and training which made me faster, bigger, and more explosive. It made me ready to be among the best wide receivers as a Senior."
When he walked into New Athlete he was about 6' tall and 183. When walked out to hit the field this season he was at 6'1/2" and 200 pounds. The size came all as muscle and was noticeable. The promising Junior who had to wait his turn in 2010 was making people look twice in 2011.
"I was #81 in my Junior year and I wanted to step out form behind that guy. I switched to #1 this year in 2011 and Corners and Safeties who used to beat up on me a bit were asking people who the new guy was. The physical changes happened. I grew into my body, and transformed myself. I know I became more mature as a player too."
Paul has this to say about Warner's transformation, "One of the great things about Jon is that he is so green to his development as an athlete, meaning he is only going to better and better each and every year he plays. You hear about guys that develop late and turn into freaks after high school. He has that make up to do just that," said Ryan who is known as a great motivator and for having a keen eye for talent.
"He is great worker and has a very good character. I am very proud to have had the chance to train him and watch him make such huge changes in his mental and physical game. His best years are ahead of him," concluded Coach Paul.
His transformed body and Senior status earned him the role as a starter for Camas where he played Wide Receiver which is his position of choice. His 2011 transformed self was pushing guys around and able to run and catch better as well. His 40 yd time had improved into the 4.5 range and his leaping ability and strength became better then average with a bench approaching 280 pounds.
Jonathan had about 760 yards receiving and 11 td's for the Papermakers and he averaged 15 yards per catch. He made First Team All League and First Team All Area for the Greater Saint Helens League where he lives along the Columbia River between Portland,Oregon and Vancouver, Washington. But still he was that classic rising Senior on the outside looking in.
"I was getting some interest from smaller schools as the year got going but really there was not too much until just recently when my film came out," said Warner.
Now there is more to this story and without saying too much we will say that his Father, Curt Warner, is a former Penn State Nittany Lion. The same Curt Warner who led Penn State to their first National Championship in the 1983 Sugar Bowl and who held 48 records as a running back before he left for the NFL (#3 in the 1983 Draft to Seattle).
That is a big shadow to walk in. How did Jonathan manage?
"You know early on I wore his #28 in youth football and tried to be the running back. That worked for a while but the time came for me to step out and find my own way. So the receiver role was what I went for and I changed my number too," said Warner softly with a smile. "I always felt and knew that I needed to write my own story."
So Jonathan was not only the son of a legend but a rising Senior and he knew that the expectations are always higher on the athlete who has a man like his for a father.
His success in 2011 and his personal transformation were finally at a point where his Father, who is busy running a business and helping his wife care for three other kids, decided to send his film to the Penn State staff.
"That is all my Dad did. He sent in my film and a few days later Coach Larry Johnson was on the phone with me. It was just a few days ago," said Warner.
What was said?
Warner continued, "Coach told me 'Happy Birthday...your getting older'. And I think I told him thanks. Then out of the blue he told me that Penn State loved my film and were offering me a full ride to come out there and be a wide receiver for them. So I have a full ride offer there!"
He leaves on an official visit tomorrow and will be touring Beaver Stadium which now holds 107,000 crazed fans on game day. A trip he is looking forward to.
"This will be great. You know I have been out there 3 or 4 times before. But never as a recruit," he said.
The offer of course is a tremendous Birthday present and while he is not declaring a verbal pledge just yet this is certainly a nice fit if it all works out.
Can he overcome the sense that this is an inside selection and that he is coming their as a result of his Dad and the amazing legacy that he left?
Yes. No problem.
"You get used to that when people know your father played as a Pro and is in the Hall of Fame there at Penn State. But this will be up to me to earn. I will walk in my own shoes and on my own path there or wherever I go in life. Who knows maybe I can write a Chapter for myself as a wide receiver," he concluded. "The challenge is there for me. And now it is my time to shine; something I really look forward to."
Other schools are calling him but like most guys it is late in the game. And there may not be anyone else he would consider at this point but he says he is open still while being stunned and honored at the opportunity.
So for all you Seniors feeling blue take heed. Schools need players and there is still time to shine. If you worked as hard on and off the field as Jonathan Warner did you can make it out too.
Hopefully you all can write your own chapter.