League City, Texas–If Darrell Warden had his way coming out of college, he would have been part of an organization that would go on to lose in four straight Super Bowls.
The head coach of Clear Creek (8-3), which is set to take on La Porte (9-2) Saturday at 7 p.m. at Galena Park ISD Stadium in the second round of the UIL 5A Division II playoffs, was on the verge of fulfilling his childhood dream with the Buffalo Bills only to have it end before it started.
But that hasn’t stopped him from being positive, upbeat and a role model to people around him, especially the players he coaches and interacts with on a daily basis. With a lingering injury ultimately bringing about the demise of his lifelong aspiration of playing professional football, Warden made the most of his situation by taking steps toward what he stated was his “true calling.”
“I said ‘You know what? If I can’t play football, then I’m gonna coach it,'” he said.
What led him on the path toward coaching began in the mid-1980’s after Warden attended Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, TX for five years, playing four years after he tore cartilage in his knee his freshman year and had to have surgery. This injury ultimately proved to be the death blow to his career.
“[While trying to land a roster spot with the Bills] I felt chronic tendinitis in the knee I had surgery on,” said Warden, 48, who attended South Grand Prairie High School in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex before playing middle linebacker in college. “I went to mini-camp and started their Spring drills but I ended up not passing the physical exam.”
Warden came to Creek in the late 1980’s after Glenn Harrison, a former college teammate and assistant under former long time Wildcat coach Aubrey Shultz, told him about an opening on the Wildcats staff.
Warden’s first stint at Creek lasted from 1988-1995 as the tight ends coach for a year before becoming the defensive ends coach. He then moved on to the Wildcats arch-rival Clear Lake, where from 1996-2001 he was the linebackers’ coach and eventually the defensive coordinator under current coach Troy Aduddell. Warden then became the defensive coordinator under Dick Olin at Baytown Lee from 2002-04 before making the full circle back to Creek in 2005 as the head coach, where he immediately brought credibility to the school by leading it to its first postseason win in about four decades and second overall in 2005.
He prides himself on running his program with integrity and trying his best to make his players the best they can be both on the field and off it.
“I consider myself a person of high integrity and that’s how we try to run our program and what we try to mold in our kids,” Warden said. “Hopefully we’re molding the kids to be good individuals as they mature and get into the real world.”
Warden talks the talk but also walks the walk. He’s never been in any type legal trouble and became team captain at both S. Grand Prairie and Stephen F. Austin, showing how respected he was among his teammates and by his coaches.
He feels that being a good role model is very necessary because some kids do not have people to teach and mold them in their family lives.
“I think it’s an important position that every coach, teacher and administrator should take seriously and our staff does that.”
Even more telling is that according to Warden, he hasn’t had a drink of alcohol in 12 years because he wouldn’t want to influence his players or his son and daughter in a negative manner. It, in his opinion, is a good way to avoid a lot of trouble for him personally and for those who look up to him.
“If I can sit up there and tell them I don’t drink then it means a lot more.”
As Creek takes the field against La Porte this Saturday, fans will know that win or lose, the Wildcats should conduct themselves with integrity and with class in the ultimate reflection of their head coach.