Next man up

As Garrett Nussmeier’s backup last year, senior Jaxxon Warren hardly ever stepped onto the field. Instead, he was right beside it. During games he’d cheer for his teammates or watch closely as Nussmeier led the team. But Warren wasn’t bitter or upset. He knew to be patient. His chance would come.

It was the last game of the 2020 season, the team had an undefeated record, with only Plano East to play before the playoffs. For Warren to play over current LSU quarterback Nussmeier, something unbelievable would have to happen.

By the second quarter, the Marauders had a 35-14 lead. Nussmeier and the offense were clicking. The defense was playing great. With momentum heading into the playoffs, everything pointed toward capping off their perfect season.

Senior Jaxxon Warren is the starting quarterback this year. (Avery Jerina)

With little time left in the quarter, Nussmeier had a big run. It seemed like an everyday play by the talented quarterback until after the tackle, when Nussmeier was helped off the field by multiple trainers. Warren was the next man up. With a big lead and his team around him, he managed to close out the game with a 66-21 win.

The following week was the real challenge for Warren. Nussmeier badly injured his non-throwing hand, which meant Warren’s first start of the season was in the playoffs against Prosper.
“Now that, that was pressure,” Warren said. “I knew I had to be ready at all times, but I did not expect that to be the time.”

“Don’t try to do too much. Don’t try to be Garrett. Just be yourself.” was the message coaches gave to Warren the week of the game.

Offensive Coordinator Tim Morrison said starting for the first time was a big part of Warren’s growth.

“Seeing what the expectation is and what it takes being the guy that takes the snap, I think it was really good for him,” Morrison said.

Warren felt the pressure on him but felt ready to take on the challenge.

“My dad always says, you got to have a little bit of nervousness, but as soon as you step on the field it’s gametime,” Warren said. “All that goes away.”

• • •

Up to the second quarter, the team kept the game close with a score of 17-13, with Prosper in the lead. After a sack from a Prosper defender, Warren got stuck under a pile of players, spraining his MCL in his knee.

“I knew immediately something was wrong,” Warren said. “I checked the game tape afterwards, it looked like my ankle was touching the back of my head.”

During halftime he sat in the locker room, iced his knee, took an ibuprofen and headed back out. With a wrapped up left leg he still managed to play for the rest of the game. But the team struggled to score the last half and ended their season with a 38-19 loss.

Even during this loss, Warren completed 19 of 28 pass attempts with 231 yards and two touchdowns, showing he could perform at the biggest stage.

• • •

In the following offseason, Warren put lots of time in the gym to try to put on weight. By the beginning of this season, he had put on 15-20 pounds.

This meant a lot to the coaches who wanted to see Warren lead through his actions, before leading through his words.

“For us, one of the big things leadership-wise is showing that they’re putting in the work first,” Morrison said. “Then once you’re able to put in work and your teammates notice, then you can be a little more vocal with them.”

Warren was working his hardest for the upcoming season. Especially with the competition he had for the starting job.

Sophomore quarterback Cole Welliver transferred from Washington during the offseason and is a nationally ranked quarterback in his graduating class.

Warren never expected the starting job to be handed to him. Coming in everyday during practice to compete with someone as talented as Welliver was a welcome challenge.

“You know when he first came in, I was a little worried, not going to lie, but Coach Morrison and Coach Atkinson just told me, ‘You have the upper hand, you know the playbook, just compete with him and it’ll make you better,’” Warren said. “Overall I think it’s been a pretty healthy competition, I can’t wait to see what he does in the future.”

The decision for now is for Warren to share time as the starting quarterback with Welliver, with Warren playing at the start and Welliver subbing in and out throughout the game.

Heading into the first game of the season, Warren heard all the comments people had about him and as much as he tried to ignore it all, he felt pressure.

Senior Jaxxon Warren drops back to throw during the Sept. 24 Mound Showdown.
(Avery Jerina)

“The whole week I was getting myself nervous and in my own head,” Warren said. ”Because I heard people left and right saying, ‘Garrett’s gone, will Marcus be the same this year?’ Everyone had doubts.”

But like always, Warren knew to just focus on the game and to ignore all the outside distractions.

“I was just like ‘I got to step up, fulfill this role,’ Warren said. “I had to find that confidence in myself that I can get the job done.”

• • •

In the first game against Jesuit, the offense’s first drive ended in a missed field goal.

Coming off the field, Warren was frustrated. He knew the team couldn’t open the season like this. On the next drive, Warren threw for his first touchdown of the season.
That was enough for him to relax and be confident.

“I was like okay, now I got the nerves out, we’re going to start cruising from here,” Warren said. “Just keep pummeling them and run up the score.”

The team kept scoring, but the game ended in a 34-38 loss. However once again, when the lights were the brightest, Warren showed up. He ended the game with 407 yards, four touchdowns and 19 completions out of 25 attempts.

Garrett Nussmeier reposted Warren’s stats on Twitter with a caption reading “Jaxxon Warren’s got next,” which Warren appreciated from his former mentor.

“I love Garrett, he’s like a brother to me,” Warren said. “Just having his support and him watching the games…having that support throughout this season, that’s just a good feeling.”

But Warren wasn’t thinking about stats. All he cared about was the fact the team lost.

“I was just thinking about how we can improve from this week to the next week,” Warren said. “We got a lot of young talent, and I thought that Jesuit was a good learning point for our team. We got some experience under our belt and we came out against McKinney and got the job done.”

Week two and three were huge successes for Warren. In the Sept. 3 game against McKinney, Warren threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-21 win. Then in the homecoming game against Keller Central, Warren threw for 173 yards and one touchdown in a big landslide 41-14 win.

Dudley said that watching Warren succeed at such a high level in his first couple games has been amazing.

“I’m really happy that he can prove a lot of people wrong and show that he can be the starting quarterback,” Dudley said.

The toughest game so far this season was the Mound Showdown against cross town rival Flower Mound. Both teams had trouble scoring against equally tough defenses, but Flower Mound won the game 14-17.

The whole week I was getting myself nervous and in my own head, Because I heard people left and right saying, “Garrett’s gone, will Marcus be the same this year?” ”

— Jaxxon Warren, 12

After the loss not everyone believes in the team’s long term success. But Warren is used to hearing the doubters.

“Believe in us,” Warren said. “We’re going to get the job done. We’re just going to use this as motivation and keep trucking forward.

Morrison said he enjoys working with him because of how he carries himself both on and off the field.

“He’s just a good kid, and he wants to do it right. He has all the intangibles, and the kid puts in effort, whether that’s on the playbook, on the field, or in the weight room,” Morrison said. “… It’s been a pleasure to see him kind of grow and come out of his shell a little bit, he’s just a great kid to be around and I think his teammates would echo the same thing.”

Warren understands why fans might have doubts about his ability to take this team far but hopes he can prove it to them.

“Not having played last year, they don’t really have a reason to take a chance on me,” Warren said. “But as the season progresses, I hope they can see that they can trust me, that I can get the job done and that I’ll help lead this team to victory each week.”