This off-season the Ottawa Redblacks made a splash in the free agency market when it opened in February, although some of the biggest moves made by the team was surrounding the free agency frenzy. In December; two months ahead of free agency opening the Ottawa Redblacks went all out signing a group of young players.
Among the players signed by Ottawa was 24 year old American linebacker Dale Warren. Warren was signed by the team on December 16th with 5 other players. Warren says, “I’m excited to get this opportunity (to play with Ottawa) and I’m very thankful for another chance to show what I can do.”
Warren is just 24 years old but his football career goes back quite a bit. His career goes back to Chattanooga, Tennessee where he played college ball for the Chattanooga Mocs. At Chattanooga Warren made a name for himself, racking up over 150 career tackles, 107 of them going for a loss and having 7 sacks in 43 games. One of the 43 games made Warren’s name bigger than ever. Suiting up against Alabama he remembers his coach Rusty Wright telling the team, “Act like you’re supposed to be here. Because you do.”
Going through the game the team played well, going up 3-0 to start the game and only trailing 14-3 at half-time the team was in the game with the number one team in the nation. Being in the game was something that the Chattanooga Mocs were and Dale Warren was more than in the game. Taking in his coach’s advice to act like he belongs on the field, Warren went all out, making play after play. He finished the game with 7 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, one sack and a forced, recovered fumble. Warren was the only player that season to come close to those numbers against Alabama that 2016 season.
The game against Alabama is what set Warren a side from the other players he says, “That was the best game of my life”, but it didn’t get to his head and he continued to play well, and enjoy his time at University. When talking about his University career at Chattanooga he goes on to mention, “I feel like (my time there) is what made me who I am. It was just meant to go as it did”
All in all, his time spent at Chattanooga is exactly what made him who he is, as it earned him a training camp with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Although his stint with the Bills was cut short just after the 2018 pre-season, he was still able to make the most of it. Playing with Buffalo was a great experience for Warren, as its something every football player dreams of, he comments, “As a kid, I dreamed of these moments. I prayed night and day, football is my first love, so when I got that call (being signed by the Bills) it was like ‘okay, this is real football’ because when I first came to Buffalo, it really hit me that this isn’t college, this isn’t high school and I wasn’t used to it.”
Dale Warren may not have been used to this kind of football, but he later adapted to the whole life style, when asked about when he was first hit by the reality he goes on to mention, “When I was given the playbook. It wasn’t like college when you’re just looking at a couple plays a day, we were looking at everything and making sure we saw what we did wrong and how to get better from there. So that was when it hit me that this is a business.” Football is a business, and theres a lot of transactions made in the business. One major transaction which had taken place in Warren’s football career is when he was cut by the Buffalo Bills.
When Warren was released by the Buffalo Bills, he was made a free agent where he was able to sign with any team from any league and luckily for him there was a new league in the making just when he was put into the free agency market. Just a few months following his departure from the Bills, Dale Warren was signed by the AAF’s Memphis Express. When asked about this opportunity, he explains, “God is good, and God had my back, giving me another shot at it.” He got another shot at football, but his time in the new league was cut short due to financial issues that the league had and was forced to fold.
The league folded, but Warren still had love for the league and what the league gave him in the opportunity he had with the league. He goes on to say, “The fans (in the AAF) were incredible, the jerseys were nice and the coaches were awesome. I overall had a great experience in the AAF, and when it folded, for me it was like okay its time to work and get my film together for the next opportunity.”
Coming out of this AAF experience, Warren was worried what he’d be doing but his worries later were gone when he got a call from the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Warren tells, “Winnipeg was following me and watching me since I went to the Gridiron showcase in Dallas when I was going out of Chattanooga. They always liked me for my play on the field and once I was available, they signed me.”
Dale Warren was signed to spend training camp with the Blue Bombers and after having a great pre-season and training camp, Warren was given the opportunity to spend the 2019 CFL season with the Blue Bombers practice squad. On the PR, Warren was put into a position to win a Grey Cup, “I can’t even explain to you what that was like (winning the Grey Cup) because it was just a great experience in all. All of my teammates and guys I built relationships with throughout the season all came together and we won the championship, anyone that has been in that situation know that feeling of accomplishment, and I can’t wait to do it again.”
To be able to go through that experience of winning a Grey Cup again, he’ll have to build new relationships with the players here in Ottawa, as he was just recently brought in to play for the Redblacks. Through all he’s been through, jumping through league after league, team after team, Warren says, “I’ve got a chip on my shoulder and its big as a boulder.” With a chip on his shoulder, Warren is yet to prove himself that he can be a big player in Ottawa. Dale Warren may have to prove himself to a number of personnel in Ottawa, but he already has proven himself and made relationships with some of the coaches and players in Ottawa.
Head coach, Paul LaPolice is already familiar with Dale from last season with Winnipeg. Warren says that sometimes LaPo would get angry that he was working the offensive line too hard in Winnipeg last year, so it looks like Warren has shown him a little what he’s got. Along with LaPo is defensive line coach Carey Bailey, who was a defensive coach with Chattanooga in 2016, and Warren remembers coach Bailey saying to him, “You’ve got covering on you. Everything you do you’ll be blessed by God.” That was the last things he had said to Warren, and after Warren heard he’d reunite with Bailey in Ottawa he reached out and thanked him for the comments, and told him, “This season is going to be special.”
Closing off on that note, the 2020 CFL season will be special for the Ottawa Redblacks, and hopefully with the help of Dale Warren on the defense, the Ottawa Redblacks can bounce back from their 3-15 season a year ago. Warren also mentions, “I’m excited for my new opportunity. I’m thankful to have a job doing what I love, playing football and I’m in the best shape of my life so I’m bound to do great things in Ottawa. You Ottawa Redblacks fans can expect a real savage on the field because I’m the most underrated linebacker in the world and I’m ready to prove myself in front of you.”