Passing the torch

Jonathan Warner carries the family football legacy to Penn State University

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Father and son Curt and Jonathan Warner share a passion for football, academics, work ethic and family. Curt had an illustrious career playing for Penn State University and the Seattle Seahawks. After graduating from Camas High School in June, Jonathan will follow in his father's footsteps to Penn State and create his own path.

It has been 22 years since Curt Warner carried a football, but it was quite a ride.

The 50-year-old who lives in Camas captured two college national championships at Penn State University and enjoyed an eight-year run in the National Football League.

But now the torch has been passed to his son. It is 18-year-old wide receiver Jonathan Warner’s turn to carry the football across the goal line at Penn State and into the future.

The Camas High School senior decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Nittany Lion on Jan. 22, the same day legendary coach Joe Paterno passed away.

“I was there the weekend coach Paterno died. It was very emotional for me and my dad,” Jonathan said. “I heard all the stories and legends behind Penn State. I wanted to go there and write my own story.”

Jonathan penned an impressive final chapter as a receiver for the Papermakers in 2011. He made 48 catches for 715 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also helped Camas reach the state semifinals at the Tacoma Dome for the first time in school history.

“These guys are always going to be my brothers,” Jonathan said. “The team last year paved the road for us to get to the dome, and we did. We had our ups and downs, but we always got back up and encouraged each other to do well on the next play.”

Jonathan formed an unbreakable bond with quarterback Tony Gennaro. Once inside the Tacoma Dome, the two caped crusaders hooked up on a 55-yard touchdown pass.

“We both worked hard in the offseason because we wanted to prove people wrong,” Jonathan said. “I think that was the beginning of it all.”

When Jonathan is asked the question about role models growing up, he points across the table to his father.

“At first I thought he was just my dad, but then I found out about him being this great running back,” Jonathan said. “A lot of people want to compare me to him. It motivated me to be better than him. He wants me to be better than him.”

Curt Warner’s football days were long gone before he started raising a family. He and his wife Ana have four children. Jonathan is the oldest, followed by his brothers Austin and Christian, and their little sister Isabella.

“One of the cool things about having kids is they see you for who you are,” Curt said. “They don’t care about any of that other stuff. It had nothing to do with me being a parent. It was my job to raise [Jonathan] as a responsible adult. I think we have done a good job of that. A lot of the credit goes to [Ana].”

The comparisons between father and son will continue now that Jonathan is the next Warner to go to Penn State, but he is ready to become his own man.

“I’m going to continue to work hard in the weight room to become a better athlete,” Jonathan said. “I’m going there with the mind set to be on that football field. I don’t care if I have to be a kicker returner, a runner or go out and catch. Whatever it takes for me to get my hands around that football and help the team.”

Curt is in Jonathan’s corner. First and foremost, he expects his son to get a good education. A football career comes second.

“You want to write your own chapter and your own story, but you are going to have to work at it,” Curt said. “Nothing is going to be given to you. Just because your father went there means nothing.”

Jonathan dreams of playing football in the NFL someday, but getting a college degree is first on his long list of goals in life.

“I’m not going to let anything stand in my way of reaching the highest level possible in this game, but I also know that this isn’t going to last forever,” Jonathan said. “I have to get that degree.”

Turns out, Jonathan has been listening to his father all these years.

“A degree lasts for the rest of your life. The NFL lasts as long as you’re employable,” Curt said. “That’s the reality of it. Enjoy while you can and relish the moment. That’s the best advice I can give him.”