Diamond in the Rough: QB Recruit Dane Warp's Fight for an FBS Scholarship Offer

Sanjay Kirpalani@@SanjayKirpalaniNational Recruiting AnalystAugust 12, 2015

Montana QB Dane Warp is among the nation's most prolific passers who have yet to earn an offer from an FBS program.
Montana QB Dane Warp is among the nation's most prolific passers who have yet to earn an offer from an FBS program.Credit: Damon Sayles

The luxuries of the modern-day football recruit have escaped Dane Warp.

The 17-year-old 3-star quarterback and shooting guard for the Havre (Montana) Blue Ponies is a throwback in many ways. 

Since he entered high school, he’s been busy rewriting Havre High’s record books on the gridiron and the hardwood. 

According to MaxPreps, for his football career, the 6’4”, 190-pounder has passed for 8,407 yards and 78 touchdowns while completing more than 65 percent of his passes.

He owns the Havre High single-season records for passing yards and total touchdowns, and hes on pace to break the Montana state records in career passing touchdowns (needs five more) and passing yards (needs 501 yards). As for basketball, the states career-points mark is also within his sights if he has a strong senior season.

Despite his athletic exploits and a 4.0 GPA with a goal to major in the medical field in college, Warp’s dream of landing a scholarship offer from a big-time college football program seems to be out of his reach. He does, however, hold one offer in football from the University of Mary, which is a Division II school located in Bismarck, North Dakota.

His current predicament could be due to the fact that his small town in the Treasure State, which is less than 50 miles south of the Canadian border, may as well be the Siberia of recruiting territories.

According to Mark Beckman, the executive director of the Montana High School Association, Montana is so sparsely populated that 105 of its 179 high schools have fewer than 120 students combined in grades 9-12. Also, the state features 29 co-op teams in football—where two or more schools combine to field a squad.

“As far as development, everything is a little harder in Montana,” Warp told Bleacher Report recently. “There’s no quarterback trainers in the area. I’d have to go somewhere really far to get hands on teaching with people who are experienced with this. There’s no high-level offseason programs here.”

In fact, there are no offseason programs in Montana at all.

As Beckman notes, MHSA rules state that coaches are restricted from having contact with their athletes when their sport is out of season.

Warp’s offseason is spent playing in AAU basketball tournaments, as well as spending whatever free time he has working on his craft by himself or with any combination of friends and family he can round up.

“A lot of me practicing is me out in the backyard with my brothers or practicing with our team,” Dane said.

Credit: Dane Warp

Nothing comes easy in Havre—which is pronounced HAV-err—whether in life or in athletics.

The long winters are especially brutal in this town of roughly 10,000 residents.

Late-season practices and playoff games are often played in blizzard-like conditions at zero-degree temperatures. 

“There’s a lot of times when it is snowing and the wind will be blowing,” Dane said. That just means you put on a sweatshirt under your pads. You can’t afford to lose any days. It may not be the best team that ends up winning—it’s the toughest team. The kids are real gritty, here. That’s the best word for it.” 

Living in Havre also means he’s isolated hundreds of miles away from any major college football program—including FCS home-state schools Montana and Montana State.

The closest FBS university to Havre, the University of Idaho, is 525 miles away. In fact, the average distance to the six closest FBS or FCS schools is 484 miles.

Distance from Havre, Montana, to Closest FBS Programs
ProgramCollege ClassificationLocationDistance [miles]
University of MontanaFCSMissoula, MT276 miles
Montana State UniversityFCSBozeman, MT289 miles
University of IdahoFBSMoscow, ID525 miles
Washington State UniversityFBSPullman, WA531 miles
Utah State UniversityFBSLogan, UT613 miles
University of WyomingFBSLaramie, WY668 miles
Average distance = 484 miles, data courtesy of GoogleMaps

For him to take visits to schools requires road trips that would make Travel Channel enthusiasts jealous. Still, he’s entering his second offseason filled with marathon trips to try to get some type of exposure.

His family—which consists of parents Doug and Jane, and brothers Isaac (16) and Josh (12)—has been supportive of Dane’s athletic endeavors. In fact, Isaac was one of Dane’s primary receiver targets this past season, and Josh is a standout wrestler.

Doug, who works in the transportation industry, notes that his family has learned to embrace the long hours spent on highways across the great Northwest.

“We don’t mind traveling,” Doug said. “Our family is everything. We’ve never known anything different. If we stayed home, honestly, the only thing we could do there is to work.” 

Credit: Dane Warp

Doug jokes that it’s not uncommon for the kids to be stretched out in the backseat of the SUV during the wee hours of the night. The family has taken on the challenge of supporting Dane’s dream. 

“That’s all I’ve been doing all summer long last year, and this summer too, I’ll be going around the country,” Dane said. “Last year, I went to a handful of Pac-12 schools and Wyoming, BYU, Colorado State and Colorado. It was for both camps and junior days. I did that to kind of get my name out there because that’s the only way living where I live.”

These circumstances make his journey a daily grind that can be both physically and mentally taxing.

“It’s always in the back of your head knowing the other kids are probably working with someone right now,” Dane said. “So you have to do twice as much as what they are doing to make that equal out, on top of what you are already doing. Without that kind of help or those kind of resources available here, you just have to work harder. Do longer weight room sessions. Spend an extra hour in the yard or in the gym. That’s just how it goes.” 

Still, he knows the odds are against him. 

He knows it won’t be easy to achieve his dream of landing an FBS scholarship.

Strangely enough, he’s comfortable with that setting. 

Last season, Warp threw for 2,629 yards and 27 touchdowns with only five interceptions.

According to George Ferguson of the Havre Daily News, Warp took home Class A Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2014—which marked his third straight All-State selection. 

Curt Leeds, who is the head basketball coach at Havre High and doubles as a receivers coach for the football program, said he knew he had something special in Warp during his freshman season.

“It was his freshman year when he had multiple games where he threw for five touchdowns and over 300-something yards,” Leeds said. “He just made defenses look silly and made defensive coordinators game-plan for more than one kid. People tried to all-out blitz us, they tried to drop back into Cover 2 under and different types of coverages. He saw multiple defenses, and no one could shut him down.”

His hardwood feats are no less impressive.

Credit: Dane Warp

Ferguson noted that Warpwho averaged 23.4 points per game as a junior—has also made the Montana Class A All-State team three years in a row and has had 15 games over the last two seasons in which he’s topped the 30-point mark.

Yet it’s safe to say that outside of Montana, few people have heard about the athletic exploits of Dane Warp.

Of the handful of people who have, there’s undoubtedly a stigma of wonder when it comes to his abilities due to level of competition.

Chris Peterson @cmpetey

@DaneWarp Had one of the greatest games I've ever seen by a Blue Pony basketball player. Scintillating to say the least. #mtscores

While he can’t control that, he’s doing his best to alleviate those concerns by competing at as many scouting and college camps as his schedule and budget allow him to. 

Doug Warp admits that the camp scene creates an awkward atmosphere for his family. 

Due to their frantic schedule that makes Dane’s camp appearances hit-or-miss, the Warps aren’t as entrenched and familiar on the camp circuit as other parents and recruits. 

However, Doug said Dane has often performed well enough at these events that he’s usually one of the handful of passers who get individual attention from the coaches at the conclusion of the camp. 

“Mostly every [camp] Dane goes to, people and everybody have been super good about it,” Doug said. “Usually at the end of the camps when [coaches] are talking to one or two kids, he will be one of those two kids. I don’t know what that means. Maybe it’s out of guilt since he’s come so far, and hopefully that’s not the case. Hopefully, it’s because of his ability.”

Dane has had similar experiences at college camps. 

Damon Sayles @DamonSayles

QB Dane Warp made the trip from Montana to try and #GetOpen. Good deep ball. #Elite11 https://t.co/cs5Di02nPz

He was recognized as the MVP of the quarterback segment of a camp at Washington State after his freshman year. He notched co-MVP honors with touted passers such as current 5-star quarterback Jacob Eason and 2015 California signee Ross Bowers at the University of Washington’s camp later that year.

Even in the absence of big-time offers, there are still schools that have shown interest in Dane this spring.

Current Havre head coach Mark Samson said Colorado State, Harvard, North Dakota, Princeton, Utah and Wyoming are among the schools showing interest in Dane. Princeton, along with in-state schools Montana and Montana State, sent coaches by his school in the spring. 

He recently visited Ivy League schools such as Cornell, Harvard, Princeton and Yale to take part in their summer camps. He also stopped by Columbia on the same trip. 

Still, he admits that the interactions are sporadic and have yet to yield him anything concrete. 

“Sometimes you think you might be close with a school, and the next day, you see they offered another kid,” Dane said. “That’s just the way it goes. There will be a day and a team that wants you and only you, and we’re just trying to find that school. Coming from Montana, that’s hard to do to get recognized as a recruit. You might believe that you can make every throw that these other kids are making, but I guess that’s part of it. Being unknown and being the underdog.”

That’s what makes the summer so critical for him.

Distance and location alone make it unlikely any FBS programs make it out to Havre during the season.

The clock is ticking on his opportunity and he knows it.

With him, he’s carrying the hope of a small community and a state often dismissed when it comes to producing talented athletes.

In an effort to help refine his skills, Dane recently flew to Seattle to work with Lavelle Durant, who is a private quarterback coach and an Elite 11 counselor.

In their initial conversations, Doug mentioned to Durant that his son had never received any private tutelage—which led Durant to wonder if Dane’s skill level would be up to par with the prospects he normally works with.

It didn’t take long for his early skepticism to fade away.

“The first thing I said to him was, ‘You look like you’ve been training with somebody,’ ” Durant said. “The mechanics were proper and correct, but they just needed to be sharpened up. His release was actually very quick. That’s the first thing I noticed and the first thing I was impressed with.”

Durant—who has worked with other touted passers such as Eason and current USC quarterback Max Browne—said he had a few other pupils working with him for the training sessions Dane flew in for. These were prospects who had been working with him for at least a year.

Damon Sayles @DamonSayles

QB Dane Warp connects with RB Najee Harris on a short route. #Elite11 #TheOpening https://t.co/1uG8FBC51f

Rather than have Dane start off slowly by observing things first, Durant threw him straight into the fire, putting him through three planned sessions during their workout.

The first was designed for working with his mechanics and throwing motion, the second was a breakdown of any negative tendencies that Durant noticed in the first session, and the last practice was a comprehensive, four-hour session in which everything was slowed down to get him to read and react naturally. 

Durant immediately came away impressed with Dane’s release, athleticism and his ability to retain and apply the coaching he was getting on the fly.

“Knowing that he hasn’t [worked with anyone] and seeing what he has, I can only imagine how good he would be with the proper training,” Durant said. “He has the tools to be a college quarterback. If he has the right person to help him sharpen those tools, only God could tell you how good he would be.” 

From a talent standpoint alone, Durant said Dane was ahead of most of the guys he’s trained from the initial point they first started working with him. But, he also stopped short of saying he was a surefire Division I prospect.

“I don’t speak highly on tons of kids, because a lot of kids don’t pan out,” Durant said. “I don’t put my credibility on the line much, but he’s one kid that I would get out there and get on the phone for and talk to some coaches about. He has the ability to play next-level football.” 

Credit: Dane Warp

Durant said he hopes to work with Dane again because “he’s a kid that intrigues the hell out of me.”

However, given the expansive travel schedule Dane's family has had in the spring and summer, the financial strain on their budget may prevent it from happening.

While that seems like another cruel twist of fate for the young athlete, it’s another chapter of him battling circumstances that sometimes seem unfair.

But that doesn’t mean he’s without believers in his ability to play at the next level.

“I actually sent him home with these words,” Durant said. “I told him, ‘You can definitely play college football.’ He has to show coaches he can throw with the best of them, because he has something. He has it. You see it, in his first snaps. You see that he’s not playing around. He’s worked his butt off to have a shot. It just takes one school to recognize it.”

Credit: Damon Sayles

If there’s one trait that helps Dane deal with the extenuating circumstances surrounding his recruitment, it’s his mental toughness.

That part of his makeup was instilled in him in part due to where he comes from. He’s used to having to work a little bit harder than kids who have more resources available.

In that way, he’s already made the impossible become possible on a daily basis in Havre.

He sees no reason why he can’t do it again by overcoming the odds and landing a scholarship to a big-time college program.

“It’s hard but it’s definitely worth it,” Dane said. “Going places and family time in the car. Just going everywhere and being the underdog, it’s a real motivating thing for me. Every opportunity you get, and you don’t get a lot, when you do, you work hard for it.”

Sanjay Kirpalani is a National Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand and all recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.