Cousins go opposite ways
• UO's Onterrio Smith could become an All-American, but Paris Warren just wants to play
TEMPE, Ariz. Ñ As Onterrio Smith sits in the Arizona sun and ponders today's Fiesta Bowl, an anticipated All-American year in 2002 and an NFL career, his cousin sits in the shadows with the rest of the young and unheralded, seemingly part of the steerage on the luxury liner Oregon Duck.
For all of Smith's promise, Paris Warren has equal amounts of despair and doubt.
Whereas Smith could get 150 yards today, Warren might see action on special teams and not one play at wide receiver.
'It hurts me to sit there and watch when I know I can play,' Warren says.
All things are not bright and cheery in Duckville, especially when you're Paris Warren, redshirt freshman wide receiver. He watches Smith and others star for the Ducks, and jealousy and frustration set in.
No playing time with four receivers ahead of him on the depth chart. No hope with all four returning next year, and two other receivers breathing down his neck. So Warren says he plans to transfer after the Fiesta Bowl, probably to a smaller school, such as Alabama A&M or Southern University, so he'll be eligible for spring ball and, he hopes, to play next year.
'I've been here two years. The coaches have seen what I could do and still haven't given me a chance to show (my skills) on the field,' he says. 'I show them in practice every day.
'I don't have anything against them, though. I just want to play. Once I'm playing, my talent will showcase itself.'
On the surface, it doesn't make sense. An athlete playing for the country's No. 2 Division I team wanting to transfer to a lesser level. But it isn't all fun and games for players like Warren who eye gridiron glory and NFL futures. And they need playing time to get there.
The 6-1, 208-pound Warren has seen most of his action on special teams. He hasn't caught a pass, but he did throw one on a trick play, a 50-yarder against Wisconsin. Playing time has gone to starters Jason Willis and Keenan Howry, primary backup Samie Parker and fourth receiver Keith Allen.
'He feels things will be the same next year,' says Smith, who cracked the 1,000-yard mark as Maurice Morris' backup. 'He feels things are not going his way here. I won't say he's unhappy, but he's not the greatest-feeling man in Eugene.
'He just wants to go somewhere where he's happy and to get his game established. Him being my cousin, I wouldn't expect anything of him like this. Hopefully, he stays and becomes one of our big-time players.'
Indeed, Warren could change his mind, especially considering the hometown connection with Smith, who he used to watch play prep football in Sacramento, Calif. Smith went to Tennessee and played in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl as a true freshman before being kicked off the team for repeatedly failing drug tests.
Smith has his own reasons for feeling forgotten, but he persevered after transferring to Oregon last year and basks in the limelight as Oregon's leading rusher (1,007 yards) and most promising young player (he's a sophomore).
Smith and Warren arrived in Eugene at the same time in fall 2000, but their recruitments were not linked. Neither chose Oregon because the other was headed there.
'We do a lot of stuff together, school-wise and off-campus,' Warren says. 'I kinda talked to him for a little bit before he chose to come here, but he made the decision on his own. We keep that stuff separate between us.
'He's having a great year. I know for sure he'll be back next year.'
But Warren might not be there with him. It's a tale of two cousins with diverging football careers. One coveted, the other feeling neglected.
The two probably would have had only next year playing together, anyway. Smith, a 5-11, 205-pound rock with moves and speed, says he'll seriously look at 'making the great escape' to the NFL draft after next season.
'I'll see where I am on the boards this year,' he says. 'I just want to see where my name is out there, see what kind of status I'm at. I'm for sure coming back for next year.'
For Smith, the week in Phoenix brought back a lot of memories. He remembers his contribution to the 2000 Fiesta Bowl, in which Nebraska beat Tennessee. His amount of playing time then won't be much different than Warren's playing time today.
'I went in on certain plays designed for me, like screens and reverses,' he says. 'They called my number on two screen plays. One of them didn't work out; they had a blitz and broke it up. The other one, the quarterback got sacked.
'I didn't touch the ball. I was also on kickoff returns, so I just mainly blocked the whole game.'
So, Smith Ñ unlike many of the redshirts, redshirt freshmen, true freshmen and sophomores Ñ can call himself a bowl week vet.
'The young guys are looking for us to play our hearts out,' Smith says. 'Guys who ain't getting to play, they walk around the hotel kinda looking up to us and enjoying themselves in Arizona.'
Well, most of the Ducks in Arizona have enjoyed themselves.