Accolades: 1999 First-Team All-Big 12; third-round NFL draft pick by Green Bay; Nebraska Football Hall of Fame member
Currently: Founder of D.R.E.A.M. – Developing Relationships through Education, Athletics and Mentoring; Omaha Concordia High School football coach; leader of the Warren Academy, an athletic training and development organization
Some people might have seen a lost cause. Before Steve Warren stepped in, the varsity football team at Omaha Concordia High School was in the depths of a 16-game losing streak. Most of those games were lost by big margins: 20, 30 or even 40 points.
Former Husker defensive tackle Steve Warren wasn’t daunted by the challenge. Turning things around at the private, Class D-1 school in West Omaha was part of the allure. “It’s easy to take something that’s built or established and keep it at that level,” he said. “But it’s much harder to take something that’s raw and unmanufactured and make it into something successful or workable.”
When Warren thinks of thankfulness, he thinks of opportunities. Thanks to Husker football and his NFL career, he now has the opportunity to make a difference for many in the Omaha area. Through Omaha Concordia, the Warren Academy and the D.R.E.A.M. mentoring foundation, Warren is able to build confidence, boost self-esteem and provide guidance to young people throughout the city.
“A lot of people have talent,” Warren said. “They just don’t believe in themselves.” Warren’s job is to make them believe.
Warren credits his parents for teaching him to believe in himself. In Springfield, Mo., he grew up with his parents at every game. “They taught me I was a king,” he said. “A lot of kids don’t get that encouragement. They don’t get that fulfillment to know that you have someone behind you who has your back.”
Warren’s opportunity to encourage others came as his football career ended.
At Nebraska, the 300-pound nose guard played 42 career games, earned second-team All-American honors his senior season and was tapped by Green Bay in the third round of the 2000 draft.
But in the pros, injuries plagued him. With his career over and an uncertain future, Warren returned to Nebraska in 2007. From there, “the pieces just started falling out of the sky” for he and wife Heidi Van Ackeren Warren to form D.R.E.A.M. – Developing Relationships through Education, Athletics and Mentoring. The nonprofit organization focuses on at-risk youth at seven Omaha Public Schools, using mentors as role models to support education, values and character.
“We are professional dodge ball players, slash professional tutors, slash professional big brothers, slash professional parents,” he said of his team of volunteers.
Another project, the Warren Academy, provides a mix of leadership, encouragement and training to young athletes.
Friends and supporters of both projects have stepped up to help Warren at Omaha Concordia. Jamal Lord, starting quarterback for the Huskers in 2002 and 2003, has joined the team for practice, along with former NU players Tony Veland and DeAntae Grixby.
Warren’s quest to show his students what they are capable of is already seeing results. The team has a few wins under its belt, finally breaking that two-year losing streak. “Confidence-wise, they’re starting to get to a point where they get it,” Warren said. “You can see it in them. They’re starting to believe it now.”
With a coach like Warren behind them, there’s no doubt they will get there.