Warner looks to improve leadership skills in sophomore season

Heading into his first full season as a starter, quarterback E.J. Warner believes he has a lot more to accomplish despite his first-year success.

E.J. Warner looks downfield for an open receiver against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

When E.J. Warner stepped on Temple’s Main Campus last year as a true freshman, he was the fourth-string quarterback with no real inclination of whether or not he would see the field.

Fast forward a year, Warner, son of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, is writing his own story on Broad Street. That story could unfold this season.

“I don’t really think about [Kurt Warner’s career] too much,” Warner said. “He has his story and I have mine. I just go play the best I can and let the stories play as they can.”

Warner solidified himself as a true leader for head coach Stan Drayton’s team. He hopes to become more of a vocal leader for the offense both on and off the field this upcoming season by speaking out rather than leading by example. This offseason, Warner was also picked by his teammates as a single-digit jersey, a program tradition given to players who best represent leadership.

Both fans and coaches weren’t sure what to expect after Warner came in for former quarterback D’Wan Mathis against Lafayette on Sept. 30, 2022, but that quickly changed as the season went on. Warner was named a freshman All-American, throwing for 3,062 yards and 18 touchdowns.  

Warner also brought national attention to a program that had minimal bright spots. He broke the school’s single-game passing yards record on multiple occasions against Houston and East Carolina, and helped power Temple’s most consistent passing offense since the P.J. Walker era.

This year is a clean slate for Warner despite his previous success. He’s still trying to improve and work on his craft, but has found this year to be easier than last because he had the previous season to prove himself and gain experience, he said. 

E.J. Warner, son of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, threw for over 3,000 yards last season and was named a Freshman All-American. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

“There’s definitely some pressure but it didn’t change anything,” Warner said. “My work ethic is still the same. I still come in every single day and I work as hard as I can. It’s a little more comfortable this year since my teammates believe in me and I proved it last year.”

Warner had a slow start last season after arriving at spring camp late. He didn’t have time to become the leader he expected to be. Now that Warner has finally gotten a full offseason of work, the offensive coaches have seen a new version of him under center during camp, Drayton said.

“He has taken more command of the offense,” Drayton said. “He is the one person that knows the role of everyone on the offense. We tried to make it easier on him last year to ease him into it but that isn’t a reality for a quarterback.”

Coming into this season, Warner is focused on improving his body and developing a stronger relationship with his pass catchers, which is something he wasn’t able to do last year because of his late arrival to spring camp, he said.

“The main thing was changing my body, getting bigger, stronger and faster,” Warner said. “Coming in last season I came a month before the season started so this offseason I am spending time with my receivers, running backs and lineman, so when we get on the field we fight for each other even harder.”

The relationship goes both ways with Warner and his teammates. As a leader, Warner knows he will be held accountable for the success of the offense and how well his pass catchers perform.

“E.J. is such a smart guy,” said single-digit cornerback Jalen McMurray. “He’s always been really crafty. I don’t know how much weight he’s gained, he definitely looks faster but he’s gotten stronger. He’s growing up and really becoming the quarterback that we’re excited to go to war with.”

Although it’s likely he was presented with hefty NIL packages, Warner never considered transferring up to a more successful and prominent program. The sophomore quarterback believes, with time, he can help deliver something special to the Temple football program

“I fell in love with the people here at Temple, whether that’s the coaches or the players,” Warner said. “I wanted to come back because I think we can do something special and I think we showed that at the end of last season.”

Despite the accolades and the acknowledgment from his teammates, Warner’s focus remains on improving his skills on the field and, more importantly, winning games.

“The main goal is to win,” Warner said. “We haven’t won in a few years. Just to get back on track and make a bowl game.”

E.J. Warner looks for the open man downfield against the USF Bulls. | FILE / THE TEMPLE NEWS

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