Editor's Note: This is the 12th in a series of stories that will profile each of the players in Penn State's Class of 2012.
Jonathan Warner brings solid hands and some good genetics to Penn State.
Jonathan Warner is just a year older than his twin brothers, Austin and Christian. When the three stand together, it's easy to see the resemblance. Jonathan would love to talk to his brothers about football, about the Penn State career he's about to embark upon, about what they feel when they stick a tape in the VCR and watch their father, Hall of Fame running back Curt Warner, run past Raiders or Broncos into the end zone.
But he can't.
"They don't really understand what I do," he said.
Austin and Christian are autistic. They'll talk to Jonathan about a few things -- they're both huge fans of Disney movies -- but the conversations are usually one-sided. They're often beset by mood swings and can get irritated quickly.
Jonathan has loved them since they were born, and growing up with them has allowed him to learn patience and perspective.
"I would say that they made me mature as a person," Warner said in an interview prior to his arrival on campus last week. "I also see that God kind of throws obstacles in your life, but it's for the better. When I was younger, I didn't understand why my brothers were like this. As I grew up, they made me grow up and see the finer things in life, I guess I could say. I really try to enjoy my life every single day."
Curt Warner, who helped lead Penn State to its first national championship, was the school's all-time leading rusher until two years ago and went on to a successful eight-year NFL career, is the founder and president of the Curt Warner Autism Foundation, which strives to help provide financial assistance to families affected by autism. His oldest son has adopted the same kind of philanthropic spirit, and it's not hard to see where he draws his inspiration.
"What he's been able to witness is that when children have special needs, and people don't understand it, they can be very rude," Curt Warner said. "He's had to witness that, and it's made him view things differently.
"He's had the opportunity to witness social behavior issues, academic behavior issues, etc. I think it has given him a whole new perspective of those who have special needs and disabilities. He's not just going to turn a blind eye to that."
Warner wanted to follow in his father's football footsteps as well, at least early on in his career.
"When I was in middle school, I got pretty beat up playing running back," he said.
So he switched positions, moving out to wide receiver. It proved to be an excellent change. The 6-foot-2 Warner played at 160 pounds as a freshman at Camas (Wash.) High School but had bulked up to 200 by his junior year. He worked diligently to improve his footwork and route-running, and pulled in 48 catches for 775 yards and 11 touchdowns during his senior season.
"What I like is the one-on-one coverage I have with the corner," he said, "showing what I can do as an individual, show my skills out at that position."
Warner received an offer from the new Penn State coaching staff in mid January and, after an official visit, decided he wanted to head east. He had only been to State College a couple of times previously, including a visit to a team camp after his sophomore season.
"It's going to be a little different," he said. "What I'm most excited about is getting to know the legacy of Penn State, getting to know new people like my future teammates. I might be a little homesick but hopefully I'll get over that hump in the next month or so."
His father saw Warner develop into a mature young man away from the field. He's excited to see his continued development on the gridiron and carving out his own place in Penn State football history.
"My interest was circling in what he was doing," Curt Warner said. "Helping him, advising him to try to be the best football player he can possibly be. What I'm proud of is he's still working toward that goal."