After wearing the number three for the Bearcats for the three seasons, Mike Warren II is “RB 30” since they are listed alphabetically at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week. Due to a sore hamstring that he tweaked while training in Florida, Warren won’t run the 40-yard dash or do the shuttle drill until UC’s pro day, but he did go through the medical evaluation process in addition to meeting with teams.
Despite leaving UC with one year of eligibility remaining, Warren finished his Bearcats’ career sixth in rushing yards with 2,918 and his 37 total touchdowns rank second behind DeMarco McCleskey’s 41.
I spoke to “The Truck” on Wednesday.
Mike, you’re here at the NFL Scouting Combine. You’ve got the cool gear and you’re among the best running backs in the country. Describe what this is like for you?
“It’s a dream come true. I’m just soaking it all in. Growing up as a kid you watch the combine. You play football your whole life and the hard work really pays off. I’m honored to be here.”
This is the first time we’ve talked since you made the decision to turn pro and you’re the first Bearcat ever to declare early for the NFL. What ultimately was the key to that decision for you?
“I felt like I proved what I had to do and I want to have a source of income for my family and my kids. That was really the main factor. Coach Fickell gave me great insight. We had a long talk along with Coach Doug (Phillips) and everybody really supported me in my decision. I made that bond with my teammates and coaches and they were all for it and agreed with everything that I was going to do. That’s when I really knew that I did what I had to do here at Cincinnati.”
I found it interesting that the response was overwhelmingly positive. Obviously, they would have loved to have you back, but people are genuinely appreciative of all you did, and excited about your future.
“Yeah, I feel like I’m getting the respect of the fans and my teammates and coaches. I’m a guy that earned everything I got and was humble in the way that I did it. I respected everyone around me and took pictures with everybody and signed autographs. Cincinnati supported me so I feel good about my decision.”
You carried the ball more than 500 times over the last two years and there were games in high school where you carried it more than 50 times. Was that a factor knowing that as a running back there are probably only so many times you can carry the ball in your lifetime?
“That was another big factor for me. Being a running back now, they say the lifespan is not that long. You take a lot of hits and blows – you might get hit every play. You’ve got to be a special type of guy to play running back. So that played a big factor in me coming out early too. I just want to get to the next level and start making some money.”
I saw a stat today that showed that of all the running backs that are here at the NFL Scouting Combine you had the highest percentage of yards after contact. What does that say about you?
“It shows that I’m a hard runner and it’s hard to take me down. I take pride in the first guy not taking me down. It lets teams know that you’ve got a “dog” running back. I like being under the radar. I’m keeping a lot of chips on my shoulder. It’s like Coach Fickell says, “Play hard.” That’s all you can do. Play hard.”
When you work out at your pro day, how important do you think the 40-yard dash is going to be for you?
“I think it will be very important. But every scout on every team here knows that I’m a football player and they know what type of running back they’re going to get.”
You had back-to-back 1000 yard seasons and set the school record for touchdowns in a season. The team had back-to-back 11 win seasons and won a pair of bowl games. How do you feel about the legacy you left behind at UC?
“The numbers don’t lie. But I was always a team player first. My first year we went 4-8 and it left a bad taste in our mouths. After that, we got it rolling and the legacy continues. They’re going to be great this year. My boy Gerrid (Doaks) is going to hold it down and Des (Ridder) is going to hold it down. It started with me and my class and Coach Fickell and his coaching staff and the success is going to continue.”
Describe the unique bond between you and Coach Fickell.
“Man, I can’t even explain it. We get along because we’re both competitors. Coach Fick loves to win and I love to win and that’s really what made me go there with two weeks left before signing day. I decided to go with Coach Fick because I knew what type of person he was and he’s a competitor man. We’ve got a bond. He could yell at me and we’d get into it at practice, but then we would laugh about it after. Coach Fick is my guy and had a really big impact on my life. Plus, he’s sent a lot of guys to the NFL so this is not his first rodeo.”
Were you worried about him possibly leaving for Michigan State?
“Yeah, I was. I was worried about him every year once we started winning because of the type of coach that he is. But you know, he loves Cincinnati and Cincinnati loves him. I’m glad he stayed. But even if he did leave, I would still support him. That’s the type of relationship that we have.”
Alright, I’ve got to bust your chops about something. You wrote a beautiful farewell thank you letter to Bearcat fans, but you spelled Coach Fickell’s name wrong (he wrote “Fickle”).
“Everybody spells names wrong! I was in a rush but I apologize to Coach Fick.”
I think all you did for the program offsets one misspelling.
“Yeah, I hope so. I hope I did enough and nobody got mad for spelling a name wrong.”
Best of luck. We’re looking forward to watching you as a pro.
“I’m glad that I’ve got Cincinnati fans behind me. And I’m glad that you came out here. It lit my world up when I saw you and I’m glad that you came.”