Seven-year-old Jonathan didn't know anything about this great football player named Curt Warner. To Jonathan, he was simply "Dad.''
Then, one day, Jonathan found some old tapes of "Dad'' playing football for the Seattle Seahawks.
"I watched them, and I was like, 'Wow,''' Jonathan Warner said. "Then my dad came into the room, and football's been my life ever since.''
Eleven years later, the younger Warner verbally committed to his father's college alma mater with a mind not so much in following in the footsteps of one of the greatest running backs in Penn State history as in making a name for himself.
"He deserves all the recognition he gets. That's fine with me. I let him have his glory,'' said Jonathan Warner, who gave his pledge to be part of the Nittany Lions' 2012 recruiting class during an official visit with his father to University Park last weekend. "But now I'm part of this family and Penn State tradition, and I love it. I'm really happy with my decision right now.''
The latest Warner to make his way to Happy Valley is a 6-foot-2, 200-pound wide receiver from Camas, Wash., a suburb of Portland, Ore. After having seen little of the field as a junior for the Papermakers, Warner, who likes to watch Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco and Victor Cruz to add nuances to his game, broke out with 48 receptions for 715 yards and 10 touchdowns.
He also put together some rushing numbers that would have made Dad proud - 118 yards and two TDs on five carries. Camas went 11-2 and made it to the state finals in 3A, the class for the second-largest group of schools in Washington.
"You don't find too many receivers in high school that weigh as much as he does, so he's very tough to bring down. He's got an exceptional burst off the line. He was able to get behind people - he's so smooth that it doesn't look like he's going that hard, but he just sort of floats right by people,'' Papermakers coach Jon Eagle said.
A big senior season wasn't enough to make bigger colleges take notice, though. Montana State and Montana recruited him the hardest before Nittany Lion assistant Larry Johnson came calling.
"I got playing time as a junior, but not the kind of playing time I wanted,'' Warner said. "That motivated me. I was like, 'I have to get bigger. I have to get stronger. I have to get faster.' Deep down, it taught me a lesson. My time came, so all the hard work paid off.''
Warner said his willingness to do whatever it takes to help him team is his biggest strength. He isn't afraid of some hard work: While growing up, he's helped his parents take care of his autistic twin brothers who are a year younger than he.
Curt Warner said he never tried to push Jonathan into football but always urged him to do his best if he chose to play. He was understandably proud to see his son get a scholarship to the college where he made his name.
"It's always good to see that your son is interested and appreciates a great institution. I have very fond memories of Penn State. I still do,'' said Curt Warner, who has brought Jonathan back to a few games over the years. "It was his decision. I didn't twist his arm too much.''
The weekend of the Warner's visit was very emotional, with the death of legendary Nittany Lion coach Joe Paterno on Sunday.
"It was almost surreal. When you think of Penn State, you always think of Joe Paterno. Obviously, it was a sad day for all of us,'' Curt Warner said. "What a great coach. I loved playing for him. I'm sure I'm not the only guy to say this, but you really appreciate him more when you get out of the program than you did when you were in the program.''
Although he won't have the chance to play for Paterno, Jonathan Warner will serve as a link from the past to the Bill O'Brien Era at Penn State.
"One of the reason I picked Penn State was the academics. Penn State is known for having its student-athletes graduate. Plus, my father told me all about the tradition,'' Jonathan Warner said. "It wasn't really a hard decision.''