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Monday, October 14, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Warren helps keep Spokane on winning track

Spokane’s Justin Warren lowers the boom on Tri-Cities QB Joe Ayoob in the first quarter. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane’s Justin Warren lowers the boom on Tri-Cities QB Joe Ayoob in the first quarter. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

As mentioned in a previous post, I put together a feature on Justin Warren (No. 11 pictured above) for Thursday's S-R. You can read the unedited version below.

 

 

By Jim Meehan

Staff writer

Spokane Shock linebacker Justin Warren has developed a knack for making something positive out of seemingly tough situations.

When R.C. Slocum, the coach who recruited Warren to Texas A&M, was fired, Warren stayed with his commitment and developed into a two-time All-Big 12 linebacker under coach Dennis Franchione.

Shortly after signing a free-agent contract with the New England Patriots, Warren suffered a hamstring injury that prevented him from practicing. He was released, but Warren used the down time to take a few courses to complete his degree in agricultural leadership and development.

“I was looking to do some teaching and coaching,” he said.

Instead, another playing opportunity surfaced. Warren hooked up with Team Texas in the All-American Football League, which proposed annual salaries of $50,000 but folded before playing a down.

Meanwhile, Jason Jack and Lee Foliaki, two of Warren’s former Texas A&M teammates, were playing for the Shock. The three kept in touch and Shock director of player personnel Ryan Rigmaiden called to invite Warren to Spokane.

“I came up here for the second game (last season),” Warren said. “I had it on the backburner in case something happened with the AAFL.”

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Warren arrived as a defensive end, despite playing the position in just one game as a freshman at Texas A&M. Foliaki and Kevin McCullough were the starters at linebacker.

Spokane’s record is 29-3 since Warren arrived. At times, all three Aggies were on the field in 2008, but that’s changed in 2009. Jack is living in Austin. Foliaki returned to Texas about five weeks ago due to a family emergency.

Warren moved from defensive end to replace Foliaki at “Mac” linebacker. The A&M connection remains, but it’s long distance now.

“Ever since Lee came to A&M from a junior college, it’s been (Nos.) 57 and 10 there and 11 and 13 up here,” Warren said. “He was not only my teammate, but my roommate.

“It’s bittersweet. I still talk to Lee, but at the end of the day the older we get the more we realize it’s a business. Once you get kids and families involved you have to keep moving forward.”

Warren’s position change has given Spokane’s pass rush a boost and he’s also fast enough to help cover screens.

“Lee was a great player and it was awesome playing next to him, but if someone had to come in and fill that position, I wouldn’t want it to be anyone other than Justin,” McCullough said. “He’s one of the most athletic guys on the team. He makes it easy for me and he knows what he’s doing.”

Said head coach Adam Shackleford: “The pressure in the middle has been very obvious. It’s his true position and he’s the perfect size and weight for it. To have a guy that can play both positions and run down on special teams, it’s been a huge impact.”

Like most arenafootball2 players, Warren is hoping to move on to bigger and better things.

“It’s not a glamorous job, but we know what we’re up here for,” he said. “We’re up here to win and get good film so we can go to the next level.”

If that were to happen, Warren would have to consider taking his automobile to the next level. He’s currently driving a 1977 Cadillac Coupe deVille with some, uh, exterior flaws.

“But it’s power everything and it’s in good condition,” said Warren, who is fifth on the team in tackles (34), second in sacks (8) and tops in fumble recoveries (3). “It just needs some cosmetic work. It’s running good. It gets me from point A to point B.”

Warren has no trouble doing the same on the field.

“I know I can play linebacker,” he said. “It’s a chance to help the team out. That’s how I have to take it. I can’t take it as I’m taking my friend, my brother’s position. I’m doing what the team needs.”

 




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Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan joined The Spokesman-Review in 1990. Jim is currently a reporter for the Sports Desk and covers Gonzaga University basketball, Spokane Empire football, college volleyball and golf.

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