LONG BRANCH – There were times when Troy Warren had a hard time simply getting to practice, and for reasons that are unfathomable to most of his peers.

“Troy has had some hard times the last two and half years with us,” said Central Regional head coach Justin Fumando. “Unfortunately, his mom passed away between his sophomore and juniors years. The family doesn’t come from high means so sometimes they had to scratch whatever dollars they could to get Troy to and from practice.”

But no matter the obstacle, Warren found a way to get to practice or to weight-lifting sessions and did so without any semblance of an excuse. The example he set reverberated through the entire Golden Eagles program.

Between the third and fourth quarters of the 42nd All-Shore Gridiron Classic on Friday night at Long Branch High School, Warren was selected as Ocean County’s recipient of the Sam Mills Award, which is named after the late Long Branch great who went on to star as an All-Pro linebacker with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers in the late 1980s and early 1990s after a standout career at Montclair State. Mills died of cancer in 2005. The award is selected by the coaches for a player who shows the perseverance, character and determination that defined Mills' life and career.

Photo by Paula Lopez/palimages.com

“I was really surprised,” Warren said. “It’s a great honor to have something so special.”

“All the adversity Troy’s had to face, you would never know it by talking to him,” Fumando said. “But if you watch him play, it’s all those things that are fueling him.”

This past season, Warren recorded 67 tackles, two sacks, six tackles for loss and one forced fumble playing along the defensive line for Central. He also played fullback and ran for 378 yards and a team-high four touchdowns on an average of 9.2 yards per carry. He was a Second Team All-Group 4 selection by NJ.com.

“He’s a huge inspiration because he puts in the work and it shows,” Fumando said. “It’s what we preach to everybody but Troy is a true example and upholds that standard. He’s been the strongest kid in our program the last two years in the weight room, and this year as a senior there wasn’t a lineman put in front of him that could block him.”

Not only was Warren bestowed the honor of receiving the Sam Mills Award, but he also came away with a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter to add to his memorable final night of high school football.

“It was pretty special,” Warren said. “To have something as significant as a fumble recovery in a game like this is something I’ll always remember.”

In his time at Central, Warren became a leader because of his lead-by-example approach. No matter what he was dealing with outside of football, he put it all aside to be an impact player and a great teammate. His teammate took notice.

“A guy like Troy works and does it all in silence,” Fumando said. “He let his play speak for him, so when Troy had to talk to his teammates, the guys listened.”

Warren is still weighing his post-high school options, which may or may not involve college football. Friday may have been the last time he put on the pads, so it was a night he made sure to savor.

“I had teammates and people I’ve played against here for my last high school game,” Warren said. “It was amazing.”

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.

 

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