FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the Patriots did not select a defensive lineman high in the 2010 NFL Draft, they quickly turned to veteran Gerard Warren, inking him to a one-year contract on the final day of the draft.
The 32-year-old Warren quickly became an important member of the team's line, his presence all the more important after veteran Ty Warren was lost for the season with a hip injury during training camp.
Warren has been versatile in playing nose tackle, end and rushing from an interior position in sub packages. A native of Lake Butler, Fla., he shares his football journey with ESPNBoston.com:
When he first started playing football: "I didn't start in organized football until the seventh grade, but when I was 6 and 7, I'd be running around the neighborhood playing football. It's a way of life in Florida. You go out and get a street-ball game going."
First positions in organized football: "Offensive tackle and defensive tackle. I wasn't the biggest guy, but one of the most athletic guys. Pretty much throughout high school, I played both ways, offense and defense."
Top memories of playing at Union County High School: "State championships, of course. We won three of them in a row. Senior year, we pitched nine shutouts that year, with a less talented defense than we had the year before. But we were more disciplined and more determined. Just seeing guys work together."
Favorite football player growing up: "Warren Sapp, without a doubt."
Favorite team growing up: "The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for the way they played defense, and their tenacity. John Lynch, Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, Chidi Ahanotu, Brad Culpepper -- the Bucs when [Tony] Dungy was grooming the defense and getting it together."
Earning a scholarship to Florida: "I wanted to play for the best. Steve Spurrier and the Florida Gators, we are the best. When you compare the University of Florida to other colleges, I wanted to be on TV. They had a lot of prime-time games, just coming off the national championship. You see the heritage and background as well -- Ellis Johnson, Kevin Carter, Jack Youngblood, Brad Culpepper -- guys that came before me and inspired me. Then we had a good group of guys who were already there that I felt I could learn a lot from, seeing the success they had early in their career."
Top memories of his time with the Cleveland Browns, who drafted him No. 3 overall in 2001: "By far, it was going to the playoffs my second year -- taking an expansion team from 2-14 to 9-7 in two years, and getting in the playoffs. There was the whole experience of being drafted and trying to build something and start something new, being part of the success that happened there early in my career."
Being traded to the Broncos in March of 2005 and spending two seasons there: "That went from rebuilding to 'let's win a championship.' That really elevated me as a player and a person, because the energy and the vibe were totally different. The last two years in Cleveland, we had been rebuilding. I didn't want to be a part of that., I wanted to be part of a team that was about winning Super Bowls. That's what the mission was in Denver. We fell short. The best memory there would have to be stopping LaDanian Tomlinson, because he was on fire during the time I was in Denver. But he never managed to do much against our defense."
Being traded to the Raiders in August of 2007 and spending three seasons there: "Back to rebuilding and trying to find direction. I enjoyed playing for Mr. Davis and the Oakland Raiders, that organization. It was a young team trying to find its ways. It looks like that's paying off now, I guess. Over the years a lot of guys came through there trying to get the Raider Nation back to prominence. It was a rough journey but I enjoyed every moment of it. It was 'Just win, baby.' You live by that -- the commitment to excellence. You go out, do your job, enjoy doing it and have fun, and let's bring the Raider Nation back. It was fun trying to do that. We fell short of our goals and expectations, but hey, we gave a shot at it."
Signing a one-year contract with the Patriots on April 24: "Awesome. A dream come true. After sitting back watching Coach Belichick win it my rookie year [in 2001] and thinking how fortunate Richard [Seymour] was coming in and getting drafted here and winning the Super Bowl, it's the ultimate goal. To be here in this locker room now, and to actually see what the organization is about, to see how Coach Belichick structures things and teaches the game, and what the expectations are, it's just awesome. It's everything I expected and even more. There were a couple of other teams in the works, but when my agent called and said the Patriots, I said, 'Hands down, no matter how much money other teams might offer, I want to go to New England because I know this guy is serious up here about winning.'"
After playing as a defensive tackle for nine seasons, changing his style in New England's 3-4 alignment: "It's totally different. If your style is not making you better and bringing you to a higher level of what you're trying to obtain from this game, maybe you need to change. I was willing to do that. "
Summing up his football journey: "The love of the game. No matter what, whether I was on a successful franchise like the New England Patriots, or just learning the game back in the seventh grade, it's the love of the game. No matter where it takes me, I feel blessed to be in the game. I'd like to continue playing it forever, until a team says, 'You didn't make the cut.' I'm one of those guys that's not ever going to retire."