WARREN - The high school that Paul Warfield once attended has been razed and replaced by a new building, but one of its most illustrious graduates looked at home there Tuesday.
Greatness and dignity play well anywhere, and few NFL players have carried those qualities better throughout the years than Warfield, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983. As one of Warren's favorite sons, Warfield, a 1960 graduate of Warren G. Harding High School, has never been shy about crediting his upbringing here for his accomplishments on and off the field.
In honor of his time growing up here, the Hall of Fame presented the high school with a plaque as part of its "Hometown Hall of Famers," a national program in conjunction with the Allstate Insurance Company honoring the hometown roots of the sport's greatest players.
Tribune Chronicle / Mike McLain
Paul Warfield walks through a tunnel of Warren G. Harding football players on Tuesday as he was named a “Hometown Hall of Famer.”?
Warfield used the occasion to thank the many people that helped lead him on the road to success. He stressed to the student body the important role education plays in their lives.
"I was exceptionally honored back in 1983 over in Canton," Warfield said. "That ceremony has a national emphasis with it. This ceremony allows me to come back to my hometown, where it all started for me at Warren Harding High School and to share with the people in Warren.
"I want this to be inspirational to all those many young men and women sitting up there that as a youngster you're not sure what your capabilities are. There are those that believe in you, and if they tell you they see some things in you, it validates that you have capabilities and you should go on and pursue them."
Warfield asked his close friend and former high school teammate Danny Smith to present him. Smith, a former principal at Harding, probably knew before Warfield that his friend would eventually make it big in the world of sports.
"I knew from the time we played in the tag football (elementary school) championship that he was going to be a pro," Smith said. "I said, 'We have a young guy that's going to be a fantastic player when he gets to Warren Harding High School.' He said he didn't think he was even going to play, but I knew he was going to play.
"I saw him play as a baseball player in Little League. I knew he had the stuff it took. At first I thought he was going to be a professional baseball player, but he surprised me and went to Ohio State and played well enough to become a pro."
Warfield was selected in the first round of the 1964 draft by the Cleveland Browns. He stayed with the Browns through the 1969 season, playing receiver on the 1964 NFL Championship team.
In 1970 Warfield was traded to the Miami Dolphins. He played on back-to-back Super Bowl championship teams. The '72 Dolphins remain the only undefeated team in NFL history.
Warfield returned to the Browns in 1976 and played two more seasons before retiring. He finished his NFL career with 427 receptions for a remarkable average of 20.1 yards per reception. He scored 85 touchdowns.
Members of the Raiders football team attended the ceremony. Coach Steve Arnold hopes that Warfield was able to make an impression on the young men.
"How do you not take anything from this?" said Arnold. "A Hall of Famer who grew up here; a grassroots guy. It's special for him to come back here and be a part of our school. Hopefully our players and the entire student body can take something from this."
Former Browns running back Kevin Mack was in attendance as a representative of the Browns. Mack admires everything he's seen of Warfield as an athlete and a former executive of the Browns.
"From what I know of Paul, the ultimate pro; the ultimate gentleman," said Mack, who works in alumni relations for the Browns. "When I got back into the organization, just talking with him he gave me some nice pointers. Just being able to observe him and see how he conducted himself really helped me out a lot."
For Warfield it was a day to give back to the school that made it all happen for him.
"I wanted to emphasize to them that teachers, contrary to what some people are saying these days, play an important role encouraging and nurturing students, whether it's academically or athletically. I found it on both ends as far as I was concerned from teachers and coaches that encouraged me."