Ty Warren has made millions of dollars in his career. He’s a two-time Super Bowl champion, a first-round draft pick of the New England Patriots in 2003, a team captain and one of the most underrated, yet talented players in the NFL.
But for the defensive lineman, none of that matters as much as getting his college degree.
For the first time as a Patriot, Warren missed the team’s optional offseason organized team activities because he has been working towards finishing his college degree at Texas A&M, where he was an All-Big 12 Conference first team selection his senior year.
On Tuesday morning, Warren was present and accounted for at Patriots mandatory minicamp, fresh off his classroom exercises, midterm exams, and finals.
"I’m not the type of person who will sit back and go on ten vacations if I’m not playing football," Warren told the handful of media members on hand at Patriots practice on Tuesday. "I’m a worker regardless, and I’ve had the opportunities to go back to A&M to do a few things."
Always praised by head coach Bill Belichick as having incredible work ethic, attitude, and leadership skills, Warren wants to serve as a positive role model to his four daughters. He also appreciates his education more now as an adult than he ever did as a student.
"I appreciate it a whole lot more," Warren added. "I was discussing with someone how much easier it is now to go to school. At 18, 19 years old, you go to college, you take classes, and you’re like 'How can I apply this to my life? What is this relevant to in life?' Now I’ve lived life a little bit, I’ve been in the business world a little bit, and everything is relevant now. It’s definitely different seeing as I wanted to go, rather than having to go."
Ok, so don’t go saying that to your college-bound kids anytime soon, but Warren is most definitely on to something. And more so, he’s one of the few professional athletes in this era to opt to forfeit a $250,000 offseason workout bonus to attend school to earn a degree.
It’s to be commended, for sure.
In his news conference Tuesday morning, Belichick was asked about Warren’s absence during team OTAs over the past two weeks. He said they are "voluntary camp" but never did he acknowledge the impressive initiative Warren was taking to further his education.
I asked Warren if he had the support of the organization to miss voluntary OTAs and he didn’t hesitate to answer.
"I think so," Warren responded. "A lot of my teammates, I think it opened their eyes, and I hear a lot of them saying 'Man, I need to go back and finish up mine too' and that type of thing. I’ve had a lot of support."
Perhaps more NFL players should take a page out of Warren’s book. With the lingering possible lockout threatening the league beyond the 2010 season, life after football suddenly becomes a susceptible reality.
"You have to consider it when you’re talking about future planning. Speaking from my side, personally, I think about it," he admitted. "It’s a big part of the reason I went back to school and did what I did to do at that point in time."
He’s worked on his education the past two offseasons and now Warren’s graduation is well within reach. He’s fulfilled 21 credits already, and says he’ll take 11 hours of credits next spring to finish his double major degree in agribusiness and agricultural leadership and development.
He doesn’t take anything for granted and prefers to earn what he’s got — he'll tell you that himself.
It’s what makes him a champion, a role model, and a uniquely gifted professional athlete unlike so many others.
"It’s been a goal of mine. I’ve had a ton of success early in my career here, and I won’t change that for nothing. But last off season, this off season, presented a chance to go out and chip away at it, and I look forward to graduating next May."
Well, Ty, so do we.
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