Considering what he’s been through before, recovering from a hairline fracture was easy for York offensive lineman Danny Warren.
The junior missed the first four games of the 2015 season with a nearly broken right fibula, but it’s healed sufficiently that he was able to play - and play well - in last week’s win over Boiling Springs. It’d take much more than a broken leg to keep Warren off the field for long.
“He can adapt and improvise and overcome and that’s what makes a good football player,” said York coach Bobby Carroll. “And a good person, a successful person.”
Part of Warren’s reputation for toughness comes from a harrowing experience in eighth grade.
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In early 2012, Warren began to have dizzy spells that set off alarm bells for him and his parents, Dan and Allison. Dan is a former firefighter that now trains firefighters in high-angle rescue, how to deal with hazardous materials and other high risk situations, while Allison is a nurse that previously worked in the intensive care unit for prematurely born babies.
Doctors thought it might be puberty or that skipping meals was causing Warren’s headaches and dizziness. An MRI finally pinpointed a ganglioglioma in the left half of Danny’s brain.
My dad’s 6-foot-5, about 350 and he’s not a very emotional guy, but he was pretty emotional about it.
York’s Danny Warren, after finding out he had a brain tumor in 2012
If there is a preferred brain tumor, it’s a ganglioglioma. The tongue-tying abnormality is a slow-growing, benign tumor that generally affects young adults and children; Allison Warren suspects it’s possible Danny was born with his. The tumor was found in December 2012 but there were still a few nervy, headache-filled months before it was removed Feb. 12 during a four-hour surgery in Charlotte. Warren’s last memory was laying on a cold operating table, and then black.
“It was kind of hard,” he said Wednesday. “Hadn’t really been through something like that before.”
Warren was out of school for seven days. His main concern was when he would be able to play football again. The doctor told him he couldn’t stop him. And he didn’t.
“It taught me to take every day as a new one, and just do everything I can the best I can. Excel at everything,” Warren said. “Accept life and appreciate life a whole lot more.”
Dan Warren sports a handlebar mustache. His son said that Dan wrestled in high school because the coach saw him get in a fight, and lots of people call him “Big Dan.”
Much smaller and minus the mustache, Allison Warren has the same kind of mentality. York offensive line coach Joey Moore said that she was upset about Danny’s fractured fibula because at least her son would have been able to play if he’d broken his wrist again. Both parents never let Danny quit something he started, at least until the season was over.
Danny Warren’s mother, Allison, was an athletic trainer for York football in 1988. Her mother was York coach Bobby Carroll’s guidance counselor in high school.
Parenting has shaped Warren. But his propensity to injure himself - brain tumor aside - has further hardened him. He was bit by a copperhead when he was eight years old, and later punctured his thigh in a bicycle accident. Ten stitches sewed up that mishap, but no amount of suturing could help when he broke his wrist at 10 years old.
Basically, Warren was/is the kind of kid that would come in the house, smile lovingly at mom, and reveal a mouth full of blood.
“I used to tell his pediatrician that he helped build a wing on their new office,” joked Allison. “I hope we at least get a brick.”
Warren has played some form of football since he was five years old, but his first sports injury came as a freshman JV center at York. He broke the same left wrist just prior to the season’s opening game. The orthopedic doctor put a cast on it and Warren played that night. He made it through the whole season playing with the cast and snapped the ball one-handed.
Warren nearly traversed all of 2014 without an injury before suffering a concussion in the state title game loss to Spartanburg. The broken bone early this season is hopefully the last of what’s been a rough patch.
“When I say he’s tough that sounds kind of contradictory, but I think it’s because he goes so hard,” said Moore, referencing Warren’s perceived brittleness. “Overcoming obstacles is nothing new to him. That’s the type of upbringing he’s gotten.”
He’s one of the most pleasant young men, honestly, that I’ve coached in 33 years. He’s just a well-rounded, great kid.
York coach Bobby Carroll
Warren’s short-cropped hair covers the scar from his surgery and he doesn’t really think about the brain tumor very often. But there is a small chance that Warren’s ganglioglioma could return and he gets semi-annual checkups just in case. It also increased his likelihood of getting concussions playing football, something he suffered for the first time last season. But the Warren family’s reasoning for letting Danny continue to play football was clearly stated by Warren’s neurosurgeon.
“He has just as much a chance of walking through the parking lot and getting hit by a car and having a traumatic brain injury as he does being on the football field,” said Allison. The doctor added: “I encourage my patients to live the life they want to live.”
Not quite as big as his dad yet, Warren is 6-foot, 240 pounds. He started every game as a sophomore and is an integral part of York’s powerful offensive line this season as a starting left tackle with hopes of playing in college. But near the end of a mid-August practice a teammate rolled up on his leg, cracking the fibula nearly the whole way through.
“I knew something wasn’t right because I couldn’t walk on it,” said Warren.
During Wednesday’s practice he played with a padded wrap midway up his right leg, and Allison said he’s already done things ahead of his recovery schedule that he wasn’t supposed to do. Like a recovery schedule would slow him down.
“It was great to finally be back on the field again,” said Warren. “I had so much stuff stuck up inside me.”
Early in the Boiling Springs game, on York’s second drive, Warren pulled on a running play near the goal line, dropping a Bulldogs defensive end on his behind. It probably won’t be the last obstacle Warren flattens.