It’s a sunny, humid afternoon at Westminster High School, and Evan Warren is finished with his weightlifting session with some of his Owls football teammates.
The incoming senior has a routine, one that starts with him strengthening and stretching his muscles in an effort to get ready for another football season. It ends with Warren taking a handful of balls out to Ruby Field for an hour or more of field goal work.
When you’re considered one of the top high school kickers in the country, it’s best to stay sharp.
Warren started with football before he got to middle school, passing up soccer, but only after his parents told him he couldn’t play unless he became the kicker. Once the safety concerns subsided, Warren took to his new sport — and made it his passion.
He played on two different teams within the Gamber youth football program, which allowed him to kick more often. His rec coaches took notice, and Warren soon found himself participating in camps around the area.
A stint at one of Matt Stover’s kicking camps, at McDonogh School, showed Warren what he could do.
“Having him kind of teach me early on really fueled my interest for the game,” Warren said of the former Baltimore Ravens kicker. “Being able to see guys that were that good early on kind of motivated me. I wanted to get to that point myself.”
Warren’s practice kicks start with extra points, and Warren uses a kicking holder to set the balls at various distances. It’s five kicks at each range — sometimes going out to the left and right has marks, so Warren can work on shaping the ball through the uprights.
Once the ball is placed with the holder, Warren goes through his pre-kick procedure — his ritual includes a few paces behind the ball and to the left, a raise of his right arm to get position, a rolling of the shoulders to set his body, and a glance through the uprights so he can find a spot on which to focus.
A cloud, a telephone pole, a chimney on a nearby house — whatever Warren needs to get into his zone. His approach ends with a swing of his right leg to lift the ball into the air.
And it’s a powerful swing at that.
“He has put it all together, he’s super smooth,” said Kirk Maggio, a Baltimore native and former All-American punter at UCLA who works with Kohl’s Kicking Camps as a specialist. “He’s got that strong leg and gets the ball up very quickly, which coaches look for.”
Warren nailed five goals and made 41 extra points as a sophomore in 2017, and connected on 21 of 24 PATs and five more field goals last year.
And all of that while dealing with hip injuries and a stress fracture in his back along the way.
Kohl’s ranks Warren the 20th best kicker for the Class of 2020; he’s rated as a five-star kicker and a four-star punter.
Meanwhile, he’s the 12th-best for his class with Chris Sailer Kicking, another professional kicking outlet. That status means he’s invited to Sailer’s showcase event in Las Vegas, which takes place July 15-17.
“Seeing how much he has gotten stronger over the last year, it’s really remarkable,” said Maggio, who works with several kickers in the metro area. “I think he deserves to be much higher ranked. I think he’s a top 10 guy in the country.”
Warren works on kickoffs and punts too, but his focus is on field goals. At his recent practice session at Ruby Field, 45- and 50-yarders were no trouble for the 5-foot-10, 160-pounder.
He said he has reached 60 yards during Westminster practice, and on the camp circuit this year Warren has hit a 55-yarder. His kickoffs range between 65 and 70 yards, he said, and his longest field goal during a Westminster game is 44 yards.
The Owls have a new coach this year in Chris Bassler, and Warren said he’ll be sure to gain Bassler’s trust this fall. Warren also knows the popular adage — you’re only as good as your last kick.
“You really have to have your mental game as strong as your physical game,” Warren said. “You’re defined by one kick, one moment. So you really have to think about it as, every kick’s the same. Every kick is a straight ball. You’re doing exactly what you’ve done over and over. You need to stay in your own mental space and not let anything else affect you.”
Warren’s academics have helped him garner interest from some prestigious colleges — he has offers from Army and Navy, has visited Virginia Tech, and has his eyes on a few Ivy League schools. And if his success continues, with his camp status climbing, Warren might one day be kicking on Sundays in a professional fashion.