By Greg Gulas
From his days at Warren G. Harding High School to his college days at Ohio State to a storied professional career with both the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins that landed him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, there’s one constant that has remained with Paul Warfield.
That one constant is a genuine love for his hometown and an affinity for hailing from the Mahoning Valley.
On Oct. 12, Warfield’s grid career comes full circle when his hometown and high school honors him with a life-sized bronze statue and two double-sided granite panels, depicting his storied football career while remaining on permanent display just outside the home stands at Mollenkopf Stadium.
Ray Yannucci, one of three program chairs and a former teammate of Warfield’s (1958-59), said the “Paul Warfield Project: “A Hometown Tribute for a Hometown Icon” is long overdue.
“I’ve known Paul for 55 years and he is the most celebrated athlete from the Mahoning Valley,” Yannucci said.
“It was suggested that the field be named in his honor, but Anthony Payiavlas of AVI Food Systems suggested that we do something more substantial. A committee was then formed and the bronze statue and granite panels evolved from those meetings.”
Yannucci, Payiavlas and Paul Trina, Warren G. Harding athletic director served as committee chairs with Kelli Keagy, Nick Frankos, Steve Papalas and Mike McLain rounding out the committee.
Dedication ceremonies will also kick off the school’s second annual Warren G. Harding Panther Throwback Game when they take on the Massillon Tigers the following evening.
A bonfire after the dedication is also slated and the community is encouraged to attend a dinner, which will be held in the high school cafeteria beginning at 7:15 p.m.
Community dinner tickets can be purchased for $10 at the Warren G. Harding High School Ticket Office, Buena Vista Cafe and Franklin Pharmacy and will also be available the night of the event.
On Friday, the school will also honor Warfield and his esteemed career during halftime ceremonies of their game with the Tigers.
The Paul Warfield Project is funded solely by community donations and the committee is currently seeking donations of any denomination.
Donors making a contribution of $500 or more will be invited to a private VIP reception at 5 p.m. on Sept. 12 with the opportunity to personally meet Warfield and participate in a photograph and autograph session.
Warfield’s athletic achievements, both as an amateur and professional, are legendary and have been held in high esteem by teammates, coaches, opponents, NFL executives, administrators, media and fans everywhere.
Yannucci notes that Howard Cosell once said, “Paul Warfield has more class than any athlete I’ve ever met.”
Donations are payable to Warren City Schools and can be mailed to: Warren G. Harding High School; c/o Athletic Department; 860 Elm Road, N.E.; Warren, Ohio 44483.