What the defenses of local high school football teams already knew in the early 80’s, the defenses of collegiate and professional teams would find out later on. Chris Warren, the 1985 graduate of Robinson Secondary, was nearly impossible to stop.
"People knew he was going to get the ball. He was hard to bring down," said Mark Bendorf, the football coach at Robinson.
Warren went on to set numerous offensive records at Ferrum College, before becoming a major force in the National Football League. At Ferrum, Warren holds 13 - and is tied for two - individual records, as both an offensive player and a return specialist. Warren set all of those records in only two years. He spent his first two years at the University of Virginia. Warren helped the teams from his two years at Ferrum to five team records as well. His five return touchdowns in the 1989 season - four punt returns and one kick return - are the NCAA Div III record.
WARREN CONTINUED to spread terror into the hearts of defenses in the NFL. The three-time Pro-bowl selectee reigned over defenses at the same time Barry Sanders and Emitt Smith were doing so for Detroit and Dallas respectively. As he did at Ferrum, Warren broke records in Seattle, after the Seahawks selected him in the fourth round of the 1990 NFL Draft, 89th pick overall. In 1997, Warren surpassed Curt Warner to set the Seattle Seahawks all-time rushing record at 6,706 yards. He also holds the franchise record for most rushing yards in a season with 1,545 yards in 1994, an AFC best that season. Warren managed to put together four consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons, 1992-1995.
After eight years with the Seahawks, Warren moved to Dallas where injuries took a toll on him. After more than two years with the Cowboys, the star running back found his way to Philadelphia. However, his time in Philadelphia lasted for less than a season, and he retired from the NFL after 11 years.
"HE WAS A tremendous back," said Frank Creneti, the former football coach at West Springfield High School. He said Warren was a big kid, and he had excellent speed for a player his size. "He was more of a straight-up runner. If you tackled him you better hang on until your help comes," he said.
Creneti remembers the warmup prior to a West Springfield-Robinson game in the early 80's. He said Warren was fielding punts before the kickoff, but he was catching the ball behind his back.
The newspaper articles from the time depict the running back's ability. A Burke Herald article from October of 1983, Warren's junior year, reads: "Short of hiring a hit man to break both of Chris Warren's legs, there isn't much a football team can do to stop the Robinson running back." Warren averaged over a 100 yards per game that season, and was tied at the top of the scoring charts in Northern Virginia Football - both public and private schools - with 14 touchdowns.
In 1984, Warren's senior year, the Rams finished the year with a 9-1 record, but did not make the regional playoff despite being ranked second in many state-wide polls. They came in second in the Northern District to T.C. Williams - the eventual state champions.
The two teams met in a Northern District showdown at Robinson, in front of 13,000 people. The T.C. Williams coach at the time, Glenn Furman, remembers the game well. "We knew [Warren] was the guy we had to stop. We designed our defensive game-plan around stopping him," said Furman. Members of Furman's team told him that Robinson was a better team than any other they faced that year, even better than state finalist Hampton.
In his final game for Robinson, a 27-14 win over Oakton, Warren rushed for 190 yards and two touchdowns - 41 and 54-yard runs. He also threw a touchdown for the second time that season, a 12-yard pass on a halfback option. Warren finished the year rushing over 1,400 yards and scoring more than 72 points.
"He was an outstanding running back, capable of breaking the game," said Furman. He added that Warren was probably the best breakaway running back to ever come out of the Northern Region.
FOR HIS FOOTBALL accomplishments, Warren was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. He is also an inductee at the Ferrum College Hall of Fame. However, Warren excelled in more than just football. The star football player also lettered in basketball, baseball and track while at Robinson.
Records at Ferrum College Individual Records
Season Scoring: 138 points, 1989
Career Scoring: 270 points, 1988-89
Tied 1st for Total TD's Season: 23, 1989
Career TD's: 45, 1988-89
Rushing TD's Season: 17, 1988
Yards Rushing, Season: 1443, 1988
Yards Rushing, Game: 235, 1988
Yards per Rush, Career: 8.2, 1988-89
All Purpose Yards, Game: 327, 1988
All Purpose Yards, Season: 2366, 1988
All Purpose Yards, Career: 4583, 1988-89
Punt Return Yards, Career: 756, 1988-89
Tied for 1st Punt Returns, Career: 38, 1988-89
Longest Run: 90 yards, 1989
Most Return TD's, Season: 5 (4 punts,1 kick), 1989, NCAA Div. III record
Winning Streak of 11 games, 1988
Most TD's, Season (80), 1989
Most Rushing Yards, Season (4298), 1989
Most Rushing Yards, Game (554), 1989
Most First Downs, Game (32), 1989
Years in the NFL: 11
Games Played: 162
Rushing Average: 4.3
Rushing TD's: 52
Yards per Reception: 7.1
Receiving TD's: 5
Chris Warren Swift is 9 in a survey of the area's Top 100 Athletes by Connection Newspapers in 2000.