Editor’s note: This story is part of a periodic series by The Bee that puts a spotlight on the recruiting process, from the Sacramento area’s elite prospects to those hoping to find their way — and the issues in between.
Paris Warren Jr. has goals.
He wants to be a better student. He vows to be a good citizen and role model for his campus peers and siblings at home.
He wants to be a football leader as a 6-foot-2, 205-pound receiver/linebacker for Grant High School, for decades a subject of immense pride in Del Paso Heights.
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And he wants to play in college, on a scholarship — much like his father, Paris Warren Sr., a generation earlier.
The elder Warren was The Bee’s Player of the Year in 2001 as a receiver and defensive back at Grant who sifted through mounds of recruiting interest. He signed with Oregon, then transferred to Utah and played from 2005-08 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a receiver, followed by practice-squad stints with Dallas (2008), Tampa Bay (2009) and New Orleans (2009).
Warren Jr. knows there is pressure to be a Pacer football player, and to be the son of a man who reached the highest level of the game.
And he feels pressure for his place. He is not a national recruit, or barely even a recruit at that, and that makes him more of the norm than the exception as only 2 percent of high school athletes in America receive scholarships. There are tens of thousands of prep football players scrambling for hundreds of scholarships, and a good many talented players get lost in the shuffle.
“I want to go to college, to a four-year, most likely,” Warren Jr. said, also pondering the junior college route, of which area programs have told him he can launch from their program to the big time. “If it’s a JUCO, it’ll leave me with a chip. I want to major in kinesiology or health and try to make it into the NFL for my family.”
Warren Jr. cannot be found on any recruiting sites. Not because he can’t play. It’s crowded out there, and Warren did not dominate as a junior, generally the year a player registers on the college radar. He caught 18 passes for 370 yards and three touchdowns in an otherwise long, dreadful and uncharacteristically bad season for Grant.
The Pacers limped home at 4-6, their first losing season since 1990, missing the playoffs for the first time in 27 seasons.
“Paris has his moments,” longtime Grant coach Mike Alberghini said. “He’s overall a really good kid, a talented young man. Colleges will want to know about him.”
Colleges are always aware of the Pacers, who have sent scores of players on via scholarship, and some to the NFL, including first-round picks Donte’ Stallworth (in 2002 to the Saints) and Shaq Thompson (in 2015 to the Panthers).
Grant has two standout junior tackles this season who are already receiving college recruiting interest.
Omar Lott and Isaiah Tupou are in the 6-3, 310-pound mold. Both are good students and young men of high character, their coaches say. Those elements — and their size and ferocity — appeal to recruiters.
“We all want to get a scholarship, but it’s not easy,” Lott said. “You just work hard and be the best you can be.”
Warren Jr. said the Pacers are eager to reverse last season’s poor showing. He’s taking it personally. He knows recruiters may well stop by games and practices as the season wears on.
Grant got off to a rousing start, blasting Davis 59-21 as Xavier Johnson tossed five touchdowns, three to another receiver of note in Tylor Bohannon. And Warren Jr.? He sizzled on a 98-yard kickoff return in offering proof that there is no equal to speed.
“This is my senior season, my last year of high school football, and I’m trying to get it right,” Warren Jr. said. “Last year we had a bad season. We had a lot of cancers on our team, people not working well together. I’m hoping this year we can come together as a team, to be real.
“Put me where ever you need me on the field. I’ll make plays.”
Warren Jr. said he is also motivated to excel for family.
“I’ve been through so much growing up,” he said. “Two friends passed away (one in seventh grade, the other last year). It hurts. That’s my stride to keep pushing, and my mother keeps pushing me 10 times harder.”
Warren Jr. said he is close to his mother and hopes to someday have that sort of relationship with his father.
“My mom is my biggest role model,” Warren Jr. said. “My dad hasn’t been around like that. Everything goes through my mom. Some look at me different because I’m Muslim. I don’t take the same path as everyone else. I don’t get into the bad stuff. I keep it positive, keep my friends close.
“Some say I’m a role model. I just try to make sure people do the right things.”