02/06/06 — Steelers' Warren soaking it all in

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Steelers' Warren soaking it all in

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on February 6, 2006 2:16 PM

DETROIT -- Greg Warren will soon ride through downtown Pittsburgh with the rest of his teammates in a ticker-tape parade as the Steel City celebrates the franchise's record-tying fifth Super Bowl title and their first since 1980.

Likely within the next several months, Warren and the Steelers will make a trip to the White House to meet President Bush in a ceremonial visit to the Oval Office.

But for now, Warren's just soaking in this simple, yet joyous fact -- he's a Super Bowl champion.

"I'm just going to enjoy every minute of this. I never know if I'm going to be back here," he said in a telephone interview after Pittsburgh's 21-10 win over Seattle at Ford Field. "You can't take any thing for granted. I'm going soak it all in."

Warren, the longsnapper, certainly wasn't taking anything for granted in the waning minutes of the game. Even after he snapped his sixth and final punt snap to 15-year veteran Chris Gardocki with two minutes left in the fourth quarter and his team leading by 11.

He quickly thought back to the AFC divisional playoff game at Indianapolis where a late, seemingly-secure lead almost slipped away.

"I was on the sideline with Jeff Reed (kicker and fellow North Carolina graduate), and with two minutes left, we didn't want to say we had it," he said. "We were in that position with Indy, and we said it was over.

"Then, a freak play turns into a big play and they almost won the game. This time, we were going to make sure the clock hits zero before we celebrated. When it did, we just went nuts and tried to enjoy the moment."

Enjoying the moment with Greg were his father and mother, Bob and Debra Warren, and his brother, Michael.

"My brother came down on the field, and I knew I could get him over the rail easy," Warren said. "The next thing I know, my mom is down there, then my dad jumped down. To have all three of them on the field at the end of the game ... it was great to be able to share that with them."

Warren pleased

with his performance

It didn't take long for Warren to get on the field in Super Bowl XL.

Pittsburgh's first three drives, all in the first quarter, were three-and-outs and the Steelers were forced to punt. He obviously wanted his team to move the ball better, but he was glad to get on the field early.

"We jumped right into it, and I would rather it be that way. The anticipation on the sideline is just as bad as in the locker room sometimes," he said. "After I got a couple of snaps, I felt zoned in."

Warren said he knows immediately when he has "thrown" a good snap. He felt like all nine of his snaps (six punts and three extra points) were all on the money.

"The ball was coming out of my hands fast. Every one of my snaps was hitting Gardocki on his left hip, which is where I aim. Every one of them felt good, and it's not always like that. In the biggest game of my life, it felt good to have one of my better games."

As far as his role in the big game, he said it was important that he and the rest of the special teams help the Steelers win the field-position battle, especially in the early going.

"We weren't moving the ball early, and it was a battle of field position," he said. "We had to make sure we made them (Seattle) have a long field and have to drive the distance. Our special teams played really good all night. Then, it was about, 'who was going to make the big plays?' Willie (Parker) had the long run, then we had the trick play with Randel El and Hines Ward that worked.

"It was one of those games where you try to minimize your mistakes and come out on top."

Winning the Super Bowl with familiar faces like Parker, a Clinton native and also a UNC grad, and Reed proved to be icing on the cake for Warren. On top of that, all three of the former Tar Heels were undrafted free agents that have had to battle their way into their starting roles.

"All three of us have had to work our way to where we are right now. Our hard work has paid off, and what we're doing is the right thing," he said. "Me and Jeff are best friends, and it's a great situation that I'm in. I couldn't ask for anything better."

The future

looks bright

Next year will be the final year of Warren's two-year contract with Pittsburgh.

He feels like he's had a solid rookie year that should keep him with the Steelers beyond 2007, but he's not taking anything for granted.

"I've had a very good rookie year. I'm pleased with how things ended, and I look forward to being 'the guy.' Next year is the last year of my contract, then hopefully work on a long term deal to keep me here for a while."

When training camp rolls around next season, Warren's future won't be the only thing shining. One of his fingers, sporting a diamond-encrusted championship ring, will also gleam -- symbolizing one memorable rookie season.