To believe the stories about Jusstis Warren would be the same as accepting the fact that he is a man possessed.
Lincoln Abes coach Jon Kitna recalled hearing accounts from some of the coaches that Warren would be found lifting by himself at the Tacoma Center YMCA at 9:30 p.m.
Kitna also remembered seeing Warren in his weight lifting class, straining himself to the point of almost passing out.
His teammate, wide receiver Jayson Williams, said Warren gained 30 pounds of muscle this past summer after working out three times a day.
So what drives a high school athlete to this point?
For Warren, two reasons:
1. It’s who he is.
2. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament on the eve of his junior season, and as a result, lost a quarter of his high school career.
Following his sophomore season, the linebacker gained the attention of colleges and was primed to be a centerpiece in the Abes’ defense once again.
Then, a non-football accident happened.
Warren was playing in a basketball tournament over the summer when he landed wrong while preventing a layup by his opponent.
“I was torn because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to play football,” Warren said. “I bawled, I remember I bawled for a day or two. It hurt really bad. But I just had to get right back and get after it.”
The nature in which he responded to the adversity and embraced his circumstances, though, is what sets him apart. To him, the injury wasn’t a setback. It was a step forward.
“It’s the best thing that could have ever happened to me, honestly,” Warren said. “Sitting on the sideline, watching my guys, it hurt me when I was watching. And I couldn’t do anything about it. I used it as motivation to get back on the field as soon as possible, and just worked at it, and worked at it, all offseason, all summer, and got back.”
Now three games into his senior season, Warren is quick, faster and stronger. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker has already played five positions for the No. 9 ranked Abes, which is something Kitna said he believes will be attractive for college recruiters looking for versatile athletes.
And there’s also the aspects of Warren that can’t be taught — his leadership.
“Last year, being out the whole year, he was at every practice coaching guys up,” Kitna said. “He’s a tremendous leader. Some people are natural leaders. He’s one of them.
“There’s just not many people in the world like that, honestly, that I’ve come across that are willing to embrace your circumstances, where they are, things you can’t change. He did that. As a result of that, I think he’s reaping the rewards.”
Kitna believes he’ll have every Pacific-12 Conference team knocking down his door in the coming weeks. Warren has already drawn interest from most of the conference, including the University of Washington and Washington State, as well as Utah Sate, Colorado State and most of the Big Sky Conference.
“That’s the kind of guy he is — he wants to do it all,” Kitna said. “And the more we can use him, the better. The sky is the limit for him in terms of what he can do at the next level.”
Warren watched from the sideline while the Abes finished 8-2 in 2013 while he worked to grow stronger and get back on the field.
“A week after, I was getting my motion back, getting into the groove of it,” Warren said. “Six months down the line I just kept on working, working. Physical therapy four times a week, it was crucial. I was doing as much as I could to get back as fast as possible.”
Warren’s three-workouts-a-day schedule came before and after his sessions at MVP Physical Therapy.
Kitna believes Warren’s work ethic and willingness to overcome any obstacle will help him succeed in any walk of life.
“There’s a ton of respect to that,” Kitna said. “He’s going to be successful in life. Because people in business, people in the workplace are looking for people like that. People that are self-motivated and don’t need constant accountability. It was impressive to watch.”
Back in the spring, while Warren was visiting California-Berkeley with other recruits, Kitna received a text message from his star linebacker.
“He texts me from Cal on Saturday night, when you think everybody is out,” Kitna said. “He says, ‘Hey Coach, can you line up a math tutor for me?’
Kitna asked if Warren was struggling, and he said no, and that he had a B-plus. He was concerned that he didn’t grasp the concepts enough to be ready for college.
“That’s the kind of kid he is,” Kitna said. “He’s at Cal, should be living it up. But that’s just who he is. He wants to make people proud of him.
“He’s going to be a great man.”