When the Navy Midshipmen take to the field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for their AAC clash with UAB later today, there’ll be a notable absence from the special teams squad. Yet, you won’t find Evan Warren in a treatment room or on an injury report.
The Navy kickoff specialist will miss the UAB game in pursuit of something bigger than himself and something bigger than football. One of the 14 district finalists for a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, Warren has his eyes, heart, and mind set on making a difference for generations to come.
Evan Warren to Miss Game Against UAB in Pursuit of Rhodes Scholarship
In early November, with just three games left on the college football calendar, it’s not normal to find a player voluntarily absent from the field on game day. However, Navy kicker Warren is no normal football player. A political science major with a 4.0 grade-point average, every part of him that is a football player is matched by a part that is an academic, environmentalist, and scholar.
While his teammates go into battle on the football field, Warren will find out if he’s been successful in becoming only the third player in Navy football history to earn a Rhodes Scholarship.
First established in 1902, the scholarship at the University of Oxford in England is recognized as one of the oldest and most prestigious international scholarship programs in the world.
“It was super tough,” Warren explains his feelings on missing the UAB game to attend a two-day interview event, at the end of which he’ll find out whether he’s been successful in earning an exclusive scholarship opportunity at the number one academic institution in the world.
“I deliberated for a few days. But at the end of the day, the opportunity to do such a life-changing thing at 22 years old and also having the support of my football coaches helped me make my decision.”
For some, playing college football at an institution like the Naval Academy would be life-changing enough. Yet, the opportunity to study at the University of Oxford and pursue a Rhodes Scholarship isn’t just about changing his own life. The betterment of society as a whole is ingrained in the remit of the scholarship itself.
The Rhodes Scholarship prides itself on identifying “young leaders from around the world” who together “would forge bonds of mutual understanding and fellowship for the betterment of mankind.” Applicants must embody “intellectual distinction combined with concern for others, energy to lead, and a focus on public service.”
From a young age, Warren embodied those qualities requested and sought by the Rhodes Trust.
At Westminster High School, he was a visible leader as the student government president and as a student member of the Carroll County Board of Education. Meanwhile, he was a senior captain on the Westminster football team while lettering in three sports.
A plethora of sporting awards could have taken his journey in a different direction, with All-County, All-Conference, and All-State honors making Warren a sought-after kicking recruit. He was not without top-tier college football options, but one destination allowed him to pursue a trifecta of academics, sports, and — importantly for the Maryland native — service.
“I was fortunate to have an offer to a Power Five school, but when it came down to it, I realized the service academies were exactly what I wanted to do,” Warren explains.
“I narrowed it down to here and Army almost immediately. The call to service and leadership development spoke, really spoke to me. I don’t think there’s a better place where you can challenge yourself to become the best version of yourself.”
“I bear the burden,” Warren addresses the importance of leadership once more, “of knowing that in a very short period of time, I’ll be out in the fleet, and I’ll be charged with leading people’s sons and daughters, sailors, marines, so that’s absolutely a motivation to be the very best I can be.”
That service and leadership will have to wait if Warren is successful in earning one of just two spots available to students in or from DC District Five. Having flown across the pond to represent Navy against Notre Dame in Ireland mere months ago, his next visit will be for a substantially longer period. The Rhodes Scholarship is a two-year minimum course at Oxford.
The scholarship has become such a prestigious pursuit due to the impact that previous students have gone on to have in the world. As Warren strives to be the first Navy football player since 1927 to earn a place on the program, former Florida State All-American safety Myron Rolle famously translated his opportunity in England into becoming a neurosurgery resident.
As he prepares for the most important interview of his young life, Warren is already acutely aware of the impact he wants to make on the world if he is offered a place at Oxford. A passionate environmentalist, he wants to channel that into something that will make a significant and lasting impact on his community.
“I took an environmental studies class in middle school, and that really opened my eyes to all of these pressing issues that don’t seem to have a solution, although the immediacy and irreversible impacts were pretty astounding,” Warren said, explaining where his love for the environment that guides his direction comes from.
“That opened my eyes to it,” the Navy kicker continued. “I watched a documentary called The Last Mountain where a lawyer goes to West Virginia and helps transition the community from mountaintop removal mining to renewable energy. Seeing the resistance people had to such a movement really blew me away.”
“It seemed to me to be pretty simplistic, the need to protect the environment and how it can be used to improve people’s lives. I think that inspired the interest in the environment, and ever since, I’ve read a ton into it, and I remain convinced that it’s one of the most pressing issues that my generation will face.”
Warren has already been able to use his time at Navy, alongside football and the commitment to service, to gain valuable experience in the field of environmental studies. A disciplined individual who has made the most of every minute of his time at the Academy, everything that he’s done in Annapolis fortifies his application for the Rhodes Scholarship.
“Academics are a quarter of what they’re looking for,” the Navy kicker explains in the week ahead of the decision.
“It’s also wanting to make an impact in your community, wanting to do things bigger than yourself, caring beyond your individual. Excellence in other things, energy to use your talents to the full whether that’s football or whatever you devote your time to.”
“I’ve had the opportunity to do two research studies, so I’m doing an honors major here at USNA, and I’m doing some environmental justice research,” Warren continues. “As a presidential fellow, I’m also doing some research there on the U.S. Congress. Obviously, the DI football commitment was a huge thing I could put on my application as well.”
“I’m not sure if they understand the commitment that comes with playing football at a place like the Naval Academy, but it’s certainly one of the things they look for, excellence outside of the classroom.”
Throughout his time talking about the experience and process of applying for the Rhodes Scholarship, you get the impression that Warren was made for the Naval Academy. When he chose the Midshipmen over Army and Virginia Tech, he found a home.
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As he prepares for a decision that could see him residing in a completely different country, he’s also reflective of where he’s come from — and the impact that Westminster High School has on his current direction and the young man that he’s become.
“I have no doubt that being a graduate of Westminster High School and having all of the energy and time that was poured into me there has put me on this path … Westminster High School has so many high-quality people who are so giving with their time, and really care about the people around them. Those things I carry with me to this day.”
At times, it can be easy to get lost in the world of college football. The sport’s rich tapestry of pride, passion, and pageantry is all-encompassing and all-consuming. For some fans, a player missing a game to focus on his education is unthinkable, showing a lack of commitment to the game.
It doesn’t always seem easy for people to consider that beneath a helmet is a human being with hopes — and fears — like the rest of us. Warren knows and acknowledges his role on the Midshipmen football team. Yet, with the Navy training field on the banks of the Severn River, there’s a natural juxtaposition between where he’s at and where he wants to be.
“To me, it reminds me that football is what I’m doing right now, and I want to be the best that I can as a kicker. But also, the river, the environment is right there too, and it’s just a reminder of what I’m working towards and why it’s so important.”