09/12/05 — It's a snap -- Warren makes NFL debut

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It's a snap -- Warren makes NFL debut

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on September 12, 2005 2:03 PM

"The rookie free agent longsnapper is Warren," said CBS television announcer Kevin Harlan as Southern Wayne graduate and current Pittsburgh Steeler Greg Warren prepared to snap to punter Chris Gardocki early in the fourth quarter against Tennessee.

The snap was perfect as Gardocki punted to the Titans in a game completely dominated by the Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon.

In his first regular-season start in the NFL, Warren didn't make his first long snap on a punt until the fourth quarter. However, the North Carolina graduate saw plenty of action on field goals and extra points.

Pittsburgh got out to an impressive start, scoring 34 unanswered points against Tennessee in a 34-7 win. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Willie Parker, also a former Tar Heel, and the Steeler offense dissected the Titan defense -- coming away with points on their first six possessions.

Warren helped Pittsburgh finish off each drive, snapping on four extra-points and two field goals by Jeff Reed, who Warren used to snap for when both were at UNC in 2001. By game's end, Warren had nine total snaps. All of them were accurate.

"Anytime we don't have to punt, I'm excited," he said in a telephone interview after the game. "This would have been the one game I may have wanted to snap a punt early, so I would have got my feet wet, but I'm not going to complain. If the offense does that every game, that's alright with me.

"We had a bunch of snaps on field goals and extra points."

Pittsburgh finished 15-1 in 2004, winning the AFC North Division easily, before falling to New England in the AFC title game. If last year and Week 1 of 2005 is any indication, Warren could be on the winning end of plenty of games in his rookie season.

"It's always good when you win. It's exciting to get a chance to see us have another winning season, possibly go to the playoffs and see how far it goes," Warren said. "Hopefully, we'll pick up where they left off last year."

Not only that, Warren is part of one of the more storied franchises in the NFL with one of the more stable organizations and coaching staffs.

The beloved Rooney family has owned the Steelers since 1932, and Bill Cowher, an N.C. State graduate, is a 14-year veteran on the Pittsburgh sideline. Cowher, the longest tenured coach in the NFL, is only the 15th head coach in the 73-year history of the organization.

Warren, the son of Southern Wayne football coach Bob Warren and Debra Warren, has nothing but respect for his current situation.

"They are great coaches and are good at motivating. They approach each player differently," he said. "It's been cool to see each player and to see that work. It's another level of coaching and how they approach the game."

He earned his position in the preseason, beating out five-year veteran Mike Schneck, who was released, then quickly signed by the Buffalo Bills. Warren believes his size and speed were a key factor in winning the job, but also realizes that football, like everything else, is a business. In general terms, as long as a rookie can do the same job or better than a veteran, most clubs will go with the first-year player because of less contract demands.

"I've got good size and speed, and I'm accurate. That helps me regardless of who I'm facing," he said. "But this is a business and that's a factor in it. The longer you are in it, the more they have to pay you. More often they will go with a guy who can do the job and is a lot cheaper.

"You may get too expensive for a team, but most snappers get let go, then rotate to another. Hopefully, I'll do well here and if I have to leave, I can start up somewhere else."

For now, Warren is enjoying his time in the Steel City -- playing alongside the likes of Pro Bowler's Hines Ward, Jerome Bettis, Duce Staley and last year's Rookie of the Year, Roethlisberger. He admits he's learning to like the "little, big-city" atmosphere of Pittsburgh.

And sure, Pittsburgh is over 500 miles from southern Wayne County, but Warren still remains close to his family and friends. He and his wife, Lindsay, will keep their home in Mount Olive and will likely move back in the off-season, according to Warren.

"Everything about me is from back home ... my personality, family and friends," he said. "We love North Carolina, and there's nowhere else we would rather live. We'll be back for sure. We'll never forget it."