Saturday will be nothing new for Ed Warinner.
In fact, there’s not much anymore that is new for Warinner.
Michigan’s offensive line coach remembers coaching as a graduate assistant in the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry “30-something years ago.”
Now he’s on the other side coaching a much-improved Michigan offensive line that just might hold the key to a win in East Lansing over the 24th-ranked Spartans on Saturday.
“You never know how life’s going to take you in this journey,” Warinner said Wednesday afternoon. “You just do the best you can to keep moving.”
Warinner has done just that, reaching nearly every corner in the college football landscape on his winding path to Ann Arbor. Warinner has made stops at Army, Air Force, Kansas, Illinois, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Minnesota, in addition to his time at Michigan State in 1985-86.
Then 25, Warinner had already put pen to paper on an agreement to coach in high school when Michigan State approached him. He knew he wanted to be a college coach. And working with then-head coach George Perles and then-assistant coach Nick Saban in East Lansing shortly after graduating college was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
When Warinner speaks about his past, phrases like “learned a lot from” and “connected with” arise with frequency. The names of coaches and schools get tossed around at a rapid pace. He’s firmly intertwined in the complicated web that underlies college coaching. A football coach, through and through.
And with his laundry list of experience, Warinner approaches Saturday’s rivalry differently. Unlike others in the Michigan locker room, Warinner holds no such animosity toward the Spartans. In fact, Warinner remains friends with Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, who he roomed with during their time together with the Spartans. His son is a freshman linebacker at Michigan State.
He speaks of Dantonio like one might speak of an old friend.
“We were just two guys who loved coaching football, loved the opportunity. We were learning. We were working together. So we enjoyed that time together — we hit it off and had a great relationship. And that’s carried through,” Warriner said. “Obviously our paths have gone different directions, so we don’t get to spend as much time together, but when we are together, it’s like we haven’t been apart.
“Obviously now that I work here, that’s going to change a little bit,” Warriner adds, remembering where he stands. “But as far as, is he a good man? He is a good man. And you respect him, you respect what he’s done.”
He doesn’t forget that there’s a game Saturday, though. Quite a meaningful one, at that. He likes where his offensive line stands at the moment, noting it has accounted for just four penalties all season. It’s unquestionably the most improved unit on the team through seven games, a credit to Warriner’s diligence.
And Saturday is his unit’s biggest moment, a test against an aggressive team that always seems to turn up the physicality when it plays Michigan. He, like everyone else, looks forward to the challenge. Warriner’s laundry list of former employers doesn’t jade him to the moment.
“They’re all the same, because they’re very important to the players on this team, to the alumni, to the former players,” Warriner said. “They’re all important. They’re important to us. We get the significance of them. It’s a privilege to be apart of a program that have these kind of rivalries. You turn it up a notch; that’s why you do this.
“These are the great opportunities, the fun games, the memories you have playing in these games, coaching in these games for me, stay with you a lifetime.”