Curt Warner elected to College Football Hall of Fame

April 30, 2009

Former Penn State All-America tailback Curt Warner, the Nittany Lions' career rushing yardage leader, has been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. Warner is the 17th Penn State player to receive college football's ultimate honor.

Warner will be inducted with other members of the Class of 2009 at the National Football Foundation's 52nd annual awards dinner on Dec. 8 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. He will become the 22nd member of the Penn State program inducted, joining Joe Paterno, 16 other former players and four Nittany Lion coaches. The most recent Penn State player so honored was offensive lineman Keith Dorney in 2005.

"I am deeply honored to have been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame," said Warner, who lives in Camas, Wash., near Portland, Ore. "It's always a good day when you receive news like this. I am honored and privileged to join such a distinguished group of players and coaches."

Hailing from the small town of Pineville, W. Va., Warner was a standout at Pineville High School, graduating in class of 90 students. He went on to lead the Nittany Lions in rushing in 1980, '81 and '82, helping Penn State capture its first National Championship in 1982. Warner was instrumental in Penn State's 31-5 record during his final three seasons, which included two Fiesta Bowl wins (Ohio State and USC) and a 27-23 win over Georgia in the 1983 Sugar Bowl in the National Championship game.

When Warner's brilliant career ended, he owned 42 school records. His 3,398 career rushing yards and 18 100-yard rushing games remain Penn State records more than 25 years later. The Nittany Lions were 18-0 when he eclipsed the century mark. Warner is the only Penn State running back to be selected a two-time first team All-American and is one of just 14 Nittany Lions all-time to earn first team All-America honors twice.

"Curt Warner was an outstanding running back," said head coach Joe Paterno, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007. "In all my years at Penn State, we have had a lot of exceptional backs, and he is one of the very best of that distinguished group. Curt was a leader for the great teams we had in the early 1980's and played a big part in helping us win our first national championship. Curt was a very good student, has been very loyal to Penn State and has made a positive impact on his community in Washington.

"Curt is most deserving of induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, and we are very pleased that he will be joining its prestigious membership" Paterno added.

"We are thrilled Curt Warner's outstanding career will be recognized with his enshrinement in the College Football Hall of Fame," said Tim Curley, Penn State Director of Athletics. "Curt was a fantastic representative of the University and was a great leader on our 1982 National Championship team. Curt has earned numerous professional accomplishments in football and business and has made many contributions to the community. We are very pleased with his well-deserved election and earning college football's ultimate honor."

As a freshman in 1979, Warner gained 391 yards on 84 carries (4.7) and scored two touchdowns in a reserve role to leading rusher Matt Suhey. In 1980, Warner gained 922 yards on 196 carries (4.7) and scored six touchdowns, helping Penn State to a 10-2 mark and No. 8 final ranking. He ran for a then-Penn State bowl record 155 yards on 18 carries, including a 64-yard touchdown run, to earn Offensive player of the Game honors as the Nittany Lions beat Ohio State in the 1980 Fiesta Bowl.

In 1981, the Walter Camp Football Foundation and United Press International selected Warner a first team All-American. He ran for 1,044 yards on 171 attempts (6.1) and scored eight touchdowns. The Nittany Lions were 10-2, ranked No. 1 for two weeks at mid-season, ending the season with a 48-14 win at No. 1 Pitt and a 26-10 win over USC in the Fiesta Bowl to finish No. 3 in the polls. Warner gained 145 yards and scored twice vs. the Trojans, out-rushing Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Allen by 60 yards, en route to winning Outstanding Offensive Player accolades in Tempe for the second consecutive year.

As a senior in 1982, Warner gained 1,041 yards on 198 carries (5.3) and scored eight times, again earning first team All-America honors. He also gained 335 receiving yards with five touchdowns. He was awarded the Hall Foundation Award as Penn State's Senior MVP. Warner eclipsed the 100-yard mark in each of the final five games of 1982, including a season-high 183 yards and three touchdowns in a win at Boston College.

After losing at Alabama in the fifth game of the 1982 campaign, the Nittany Lions reeled off six consecutive wins to climb back to 10-1 and No. 2 in the polls and earn a berth in the Sugar Bowl against unbeaten and No. 1 Georgia for the national title. For the second consecutive year, Warner out-gained the Heisman Trophy winner, rushing for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Nittany Lions' monumental 27-23 win. He scored from two yards out in the first quarter to open the scoring and added a nine-yard run in the second frame for a 17-3 lead. Warner fought through leg cramps to gain 63 yards in the second half. Georgia's Herschel Walker gained 103 yards on 28 carries vs. the Penn State defense.

Warner said identifying the top highlight of his Penn State career was difficult. "It would probably be the (1983) Sugar Bowl. We had to battle the entire game to beat Georgia. That game epitomized what we were about and culminated all of the hard work we had put in during our careers."

In addition to his Penn State career rushing and 100-yard rushing game records, Warner also holds the school record for all-purpose yards in a game, with 341 yards at Syracuse in 1981. He ran for a career-best 256 yards vs. the Orange that day. His 280 all-purpose yards vs. Rutgers in 1979 remain a school freshman record. The only Nittany Lion to post more than 1,000 all-purpose yards in all four of his years, Warner is No. 2 in Penn State career all-purpose yards (4,982) and career rushing attempts (649).

The Nittany Lions' all-purpose yardage leader from 1980-82, Warner scored 33 career touchdowns - 24 carrying the ball, six as a receiver and three on kickoff returns. He had 992 career return yards and 662 receiving yards in addition to his 3,398 rushing yards.

Warner earned his Penn State degree in speech communications in May, 1983.

After playing in the 1983 Hula Bowl, Warner was the third overall selection in the 1983 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. He led the AFC in rushing his rookie season with 1,449 yards on 335 carries (4.3), scoring 13 touchdowns to help the Seahawks reach their first AFC Championship game. He suffered a torn ACL in the 1984 opener and missed the rest of the season. Warner gained a career-best 1,481 yards in 1986 and added 41 receptions.

Warner earned Pro Bowl selections in 1983, '86 and '87 and was named All-Pro in 1983, '85, '86 and '87. He gained 6,844 career yards and scored 56 touchdowns, while playing with Seattle (1983-89) and the Los Angeles Rams (1990). Warner also gained 1,467 career receiving yards. He was inducted into the Seattle Seahawks Ring of Honor in 1994 and is one of only eight Seahawks players to be so honored.

Warner was very appreciative of the opportunity to play for Paterno. "I really don't think his players fully appreciate Joe Paterno until they leave," he said. "After you have left Penn State and are out in the world, then you begin to understand the things he talked about and taught us. It was a privilege to play for Joe Paterno. He is a great person and a great coach. He prepares you for life and he has my utmost respect."

A four-year letterman, Warner was coached by Fran Ganter, who was a member of the Penn State coaching staff from 1971-2003 and is now the Nittany Lions' Associate Athletic Director for Football Administration. "Franny was an outstanding coach and teacher," Warner commented. "We still talk on a regular basis and have an outstanding relationship."

Warner has owned a Chevrolet dealership in Vancouver, Wash. since 1994. Warner and his dealership annually sponsor several safety events in the community. He is the founder and president of the Curt Warner Autism Foundation and is a member of a local Rotary chapter.

Warner serves as the running backs coach for the Camas High School football team. He also has contributed $1,500 the past three years for a scholarship presented by the Clark County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame.

Curt and his wife, Ana, have three sons -- Jonathan (16), and twins, Austin and Christian (14) -- and a daughter, Isabella (3).

Paterno was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007, becoming one of the first three active coaches to gain induction.

Other members of the Penn State program enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame, located in South Bend, Ind., include ex-coaches Hugo Bezdek, Rip Engle, Dick Harlow and Bob Higgins along with former players John Cappelletti, Keith Dorney, Jack Ham, Glenn Killinger, Ted Kwalick, Rich Lucas, Pete Mauthe, Shorty Miller, Lydell Mitchell, Dennis Onkotz, Mike Reid, Glenn Ressler, Dave Robinson, Steve Suhey, Dexter Very and Harry Wilson.

The other members of the incoming Hall of Fame class include: Pervis Atkins, New Mexico State; Tim Brown, Notre Dame; Chuck Cecil, Arizona; Ed Dyas, Auburn; Major Harris, West Virginia; Gordon Hudson, Brigham Young; William Lewis, Harvard; Woodrow Lowe, Alabama; Ken Margerum, Stanford; Steve McMichael, Texas; Chris Spielman, Ohio State; Larry Station, Iowa; Pat Swilling, Georgia Tech; Gino Torretta, Miami (Fla.) and Grant Wistrom, Nebraska.

Coaches Dick MacPherson (Massachusetts and Syracuse) and John Robinson (USC, UNLV) also will enter the Hall of Fame with the Class of 2009.

Additional information on the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2009 can be found at

  • Curt Warner

    IMAGE: Penn State Sports Information

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Last Updated November 18, 2010