Steven McGrain, Sports Writer
“The mindset is to not talk and praise how great of a performer that you are on the field, but let the work ethic and production speak for itself because that is all that matters at the end of the day.”
This slogan is what drove senior Kyle Warner to a state championship at Tumwater High School his senior year. It is also the mindset he carried with him while on the campus of Pacific Lutheran University.
It’s rare for a Division III football player to have the opportunity to continue playing professionally, but the Lutes’ wide receiver is seizing every moment in pursuit of his dream.
“Looking at Seahawks Chris Matthews in the Super Bowl put it in perspective that there is a possibility,” Warner siad. “No matter where you are, if you have the ability and right mindset, you could gain an opportunity.”
After being rejected to attend the University of Washington Pro Day, an event for the top football players to show their skills to National Football League coaches, Warner knew the next avenue was to attend a Canadian Football Leauge tryout.
Warner needed a contact to try out for the CFL, and he found advice from, Matt Johnson, a former NFL Safety for the Dallas Cowboys. Johnson aided Warner in his training to become the player he is today.
“Matt Johnson was a senior at Tumwater [High School] while I was in 8th grade. I came into contact with him, and he said that he knew a coach at Edmonton, so they knew I would be making the trip and what type of player I was,” Warner said.
Warner flew to California to attend the CFL Pro Day to display his athletic ability to the Edmonton Eskimos. While on the plane, he came to the realization that he had everything to gain and nothing to lose.
“It was a valuable experience to travel down there, it was hard to stand out amongst the others, but it also kind of confirmed my belief of having the ability to continue playing,” Warner said. “There is room to grow though, there always is.”
There is a difficult obstacle that Warner is facing: the perception of a Division III football player. Not many gain a chance at a professional level, especially when they did not go to a Division I school, where the exposure would be more accessible or the talent does not compare to high tier programs.
Although there are only minimal examples of players coming from Division III football and Canadian Football League, they have become accomplished at the highest level.
Pierre Garçon came from perennial powerhouse in Division III football, Mount Union. He is now the number one receiver on the Washington Redskins. As mentioned before, Seattle Seahawks’ Chris Matthews, who on the biggest stage recorded four catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. Before playing for the Seahawks, Matthews worked at Foot Locker and played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Canada.
Warner realizes the improbability, but knows his potential and the opportunity is there for the taking.
“N.G.U.N.N.G.U. is never give up, never never give up,” Warner said. “A slogan from Tumwater that was instilled in me early on and an acronym I continue to embrace because it reminds me of where I came from and if I stick to it, I know I can accomplish anything.”