A brother’s love fuels Camas receiver

Jonathan Warner wants to spread autism awareness

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

CAMAS — He is explosive off the line of scrimmage and strong enough to outmuscle opponents for the ball.

Jonathan Warner has grown into his frame, a 6-foot, 1-inch, 195-pound mixture of speed and strength for the Camas football team. He has the body and mind of a wide receiver.

That is something he does not take for granted. He is reminded at home every day that not all teenagers are capable of playing varsity athletics.

His senior season has gone just about perfect. Camas (8-1) won its second consecutive Class 3A Greater St. Helens League title. Warner himself had a break-out month in September — when Camas played the toughest part of its schedule. Warner also loves and respects his teammates.

His only regret: If only his brothers could be teammates, too.

“I wish they could be playing with me,” Warner said of his twin brothers Austin and Christian. “That would have been fun, all three of us playing together this year.”

Instead, Jonathan, 18, is playing for Austin and Christian, 17-year-olds afflicted with autism.

“I think of what I could do for them in the future. How could I help spread autism awareness in the community,” Warner said.

If he can take his late-bloomer of a body to play college football, or even beyond — like his father, former Seahawk great Curt Warner — then he said he would use that stage to be a positive influence.

Even if he does not become a professional athlete, he knows he will dedicate a portion of his life for the cause.

That, more than anything he does on the football field, is worthy of praise from his parents, Curt and Ana.

“We’re very proud of him to want to talk about it now,” Curt Warner said. “It’s something you live with, that he has had to deal with. You come out on the other end of it a better person for it. We’re thankful to the good Lord above that his perception, his thinking, is a little bit different than it was four or five years ago. We’re blessed for him to have that mindset.”

After all, it has been difficult being the older brother of autistic twins.

“I didn’t like having people come over, seeing what I had to go through at home,” Jonathan said. “I’d be hesitant to invite friends over. I still loved my brothers, but it was hard being social at my house.”

Austin and Christian have severe mood swings.

“Sometimes they’re quiet, and sometimes they’re banging on the walls, making lots of noises. You actually have to keep an eye on them. You don’t know what they’re going to do,” Jonathan said. “They’re always clinging to Mom. That puts a lot of stress on her. She’s really tired all the time.”

Ana Warner also is taking care of the family’s youngest, 5-year-old daughter Isabella.

“I would say it’s toughest for my mom, but it’s tough all around,” Jonathan said.

Enduring the situation, Jonathan learned patience.

“I grew up. I’d say my junior year, I started to realize I needed to get ready for college and to see how I could help my family with the struggles of autism,” Jonathan said. “I just matured a little bit.”

His physical growth has helped turn him into a playmaker. As a sophomore, he was tall and skinny. Now, he is tall and a rock.

In a game earlier this season, Warner performed an out-and-up move. The defensive back bit hard and when Warner turned upfield, the two collided. The defensive back crumbled to the turf. Warner stayed on his feet and was wide open for a touchdown. (The play was called back on a penalty, but anyone who saw the play was impressed with Warner’s strength. Two years ago, Warner would have been the one on the turf.)

Against Mountain View in a contest that ended up turning into the league championship game, Warner had 10 catches for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Since then, he has scored six more touchdowns. His numbers, like that of all the Papermakers on offense, have been contained because the team has been blowing out all of its opponents in the final month. No starter has played more than a couple of quarters a game.

“It’s been a great season so far,” Warner said. “I’m just having a lot of fun with the guys. Racking up yards and putting up points for the team, to win. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Last year’s team was the most successful in the program’s history in the state playoff era. Camas won its first state playoff game and advanced to the 3A quarterfinals. That 2010 team was loaded with talent and leadership from its senior class. That left questions for this season.

“We had a lot of doubters,” Warner said. “We wanted to shout a lot of those doubters down. That was a chip on our shoulders. We are as good or better than last year.”

The Papermakers hope to show that in the postseason. Camas hosts Bainbridge at 7 p.m. Friday in the state play-in game.

After the season — which the Papermakers hope will last until the first week of December — Warner will start to look at his options for college.

He was not on anybody’s “list” his sophomore year. He kept working in the weight room his junior year, waiting for his chance to shine.

He is doing just that this season, but that has not led to any big-school offers. Warner is confident he will find a college program that suits him best, but he is not concerned about it now.

Wherever he ends up, he plans on being Jonathan Warner — not Curt Warner’s son.

He’s heard the question many times. He even finishes the question.

What is it like ... “to be in the shadow of Curt Warner?” he says.

“People always say I’m going to be as good as my dad. But I want to write my own story,” Jonathan said. “I’m not trying to go to Penn State and be a running back. I want to be known as Jonathan Warner, make my own name. I want to be myself. I’m going to try to write my own story.”

Football is just a part of his life, a part of the family’s life.

His brothers do not fully comprehend Friday night football. They rarely attend Jonathan’s games because the noise bothers them.

“They see my uniform before I go out, but I don’t think they know what I’m doing,” he said.

Jonathan Warner knows what he is doing. He is playing football for his team, for himself.

And he is living his life for himself and for his family.