It's been a long road. It started back in 2017, but it seems Troy Warner has finally reached the end of his recovery period that included three surgeries and multiple months of rehab.
Now he's raring to go at any opportunity he can get.
“There's obviously no words for how excited I am and how eager I am to just go out and show what I'm capable of,” Warner said. “I mean, if I were to tell people what kind of goals I have set for myself, they think I'm crazy. But I really believe that I'm more than capable of achieving great things. I'm also excited to just be able to contribute to the team because you almost feel helpless when you're on the sideline and not being able to go out there and make plays for your team.”
On Oct. 21, 2017, during the East Carolina game, Warner suffered a Lisfranc injury. The defensive back had surgery as soon as possible, went through nine months of rehab, and then had surgery again to have some hardware removed.
Warner then got back into action and played the entirety of the 2018 season, but something was still wrong. The San Marcos, Calif., native played the whole season through pain and inflammation. Warner tried toughing it out, but eventually he came to the conclusion that his foot was not healthy.
It turned out the plates in his foot had broken and one piece got engraved into bone, so Warner had a third surgery to get the broken pieces removed.
Position coach Preston Hadley joined the BYU staff in 2018. He wasn’t with the Cougars when Warner initially got injured but did see him struggle through pain and inflammation. So, he and Warner came to a decision together: The defensive back would not play the 2019 season.
“We definitely took a much more conservative route,” Hadley said. “He didn't even practice the first half of the season.”
While Warner sat out games and all practices, Hadley said he saw his player develop a different type of maturity. Naturally, whenever an athlete has any type of injury, the only thing that matters is getting back on the field. But this time it was imperative that Warner completely rest to allow his foot to heal to have a chance at playing again.
Warner didn't want to use his injury as an excuse. He still showed up. Instead of learning from the field, he learned from the sidelines, listening in on the coaches and adjustments they made.
The rest — and work — paid off, and earlier than expected.
Warner was able to play in the last four games of the 2019 season and was “definitely” the highlight of the position crew during the shortened spring football practices, Hadley said.
The position coach expects Warner to be a team leader and starter next season.
“It's no surprise he was playing his best football,” Hadley said.
Part of what motivated Warner while he dealt, repeatedly, with his injury was watching the career trajectory of his older brother Fred.
Fred Warner wrapped up his collegiate career in 2017, the same season that Troy Warner suffered his foot injury. Since then, Fred Warner was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the third round (70th overall) of the 2018 NFL draft and, in his second season, went all the way to Super Bowl LIV with his team.
During the Super Bowl, Fred Warner recorded seven tackles and intercepted a pass thrown by Patrick Mahomes during the 31-20 loss.
Seeing his brother’s success only made Troy Warner want to get healthy to be able to have his best senior season at BYU so he could make a run at a pro career as well.
“Just seeing what he was capable of doing and the things he's been able to teach me throughout his journey, has motivated me more than I can ever explain,” Warner said. “I think it's completely shifted my mentality for me. When I got injured and trying to fight through the injury in 2018, and the whole year I had to sit out, I was watching him play and dominating the NFL. That kind of thing is so motivating because it really pushed me to try to get back to full strength and to form where I know I can perform at a high level as well.”
While Warner is now fully recovered, he's once again not able to practice, but now it's due to the COVID-19 pandemic that forced BYU to cancel all athletic events, including spring practice.
While Warner is trying to do as much as possible from home, his wife still has to leave the house for work. Bailee works as a nurse at Utah Valley Hospital; she and Warner just celebrated their first wedding anniversary on Sunday.
Warner said it’s been tough. Every time Bailee leaves for work, it’s concerning. It’s not easy, but Warner is understanding of his wife’s career and how important it is at this time.
If anything, dealing with his injury brought a newfound outlook on life
“The way I like look at things now is just controlling what you can control,” Warner said. “I couldn’t control getting injured — it was just one of those freak things. And nobody could have controlled this outbreak of the coronavirus.”
The only thing Warner can control right now is staying prepared for when he's able to play again. And making sure to not take for granted the time he has to spend with his family right now.
However, he's tried to not think about what could happen to the football season if colleges are forced to postpone or cancel due to the pandemic.
“I just don’t like looking ahead,” Warner said. “I just like to live in the present and worry about what I can do now and the rest will kind of take care of itself. But it will be interesting to find out what will actually happen and how it will all unfold.”