A 6-foot-3, 336 lb. dancing machine?
That’s what Bengals linebacker DeQuin Evans calls Larry Warford. The two were teammates at Kentucky. Evans says Warford, UK’s starting right guard, is the best dancer on the Wildcats’ team.
“I can’t really explain it,” Warford said with a laugh. “I guess I was born with it.”
“Sometimes it’s awkward for me to watch, but I’ve seen him do it and I’m relatively impressed that he can,” says UK offensive line coach Mike Summers. “For a guy who’s 330, he can dance.”
Despite his size 15 shoes, the old adage “light on his feet” certainly applies to Warford. He’s developed into one of the premier offensive linemen in the Southeastern Conference. That automatically makes him one of the best in the country. And it’s his footwork, along with strength and speed, that separates Warford from the rest.
“He’s an amazing athlete,” Summers said, after a recent UK workout. “He’s one of the most explosive big men that I’ve ever been around.”
While the dancing may come naturally, Summers says Warford’s strength and technique, needed to play up front in the SEC, was honed over a period of time.
Out of shape and a bit overweight coming out of Madison Central High School, Warford has put in the necessary time,both in the weight room and film room, to become one of best offensive linemen in recent UK history.
“As Larry has grown and matured over the last few years, his sense of focus has gotten better,” Summers says. “His commitment to his physical development has gotten better.”
Last year, Warford was named to the 2010 CollegeFootballNews.com sophomore All-American team and was a second-team All-SEC performer.
“I’m only as good as my offensive line,” Warford says. “We all work together. They help me. I help them.”
Heading into UK’s opener against Western Kentucky, Warford is being mentioned as an All-American candidate and is on everybody’s All-SEC first-team. He’s one of the big reasons coach Joker Phillips has said UK’s offensive line is his team’s strength.
Ironically, the Hilltoppers were one of three schools that Warford considered coming out of high school. Cincinnati was the other.
Learning Early on
Larry Warford was nine when his parents divorced. His father, originally from Ohio, had family in Kentucky and moved Larry from California to Richmond, before Larry’s junior year in high school.
It was at Madison Central that Warford began to realize football might be in his future.
“I never really thought about how I ended up here,” Warford says of his transition, from 7th grade defensive lineman, to an all-conference guard. “It just happened. I basically understood the position.”
Warford says in high school, instead of going to eat lunch with his classmates, he’d watch film with his coaches.
“I’d watch the pros. I’d watch my team.”
"I’m a big copy cat,” he says. “I copy the best. How they do it. How they do it right. And see what works for me.”
One of those he copied was Utah guard Sam Brenner, who, like Warford, is from San Diego.
His coach at Kentucky says being a good offensive unit requires a certain kind of attitude, both on and off the field.
“He’s the consummate offensive lineman,” Summers says. “He has that selfless demeanor. He cares about this football team. He doesn’t care about who gets the credit.”
“He comes to work every day, puts his hand in the dirt, comes off the ball, and lines up to do it over and over again.”
The move to Kentucky was particularly stressful, because Warford’s mother, Colene, moved to Samoa. Now, separated by more than 6,600 miles, Warford hasn’t seen his mom since 2007.
“She loves football,” he says. “She’ll text me during the season and ask me, ‘Who did the Chargers beat? Who’s in the Super Bowl?’”
“After the season, I’m going to try and visit her.”
His Samoan heritage led Warford to give football a try.
“Most of my friends are Samoan and they all love football.”
“It’s a physical mentality. We’re just big people and it fits right in.”
Warford says his favorite Samoan player is Troy Palamalu, the all-Pro safety of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who’s also known for his long hair that protrudes from beneath his helmet.
“Coach Summers will tell you, I tried to grow my hair, but my hair just grows up. I just cut it.”
The last UK offensive lineman taken in the NFL Draft was guard Todd Perry , selected in the 4th round of the 1993 draft, by the Bears, and tackle Chuck Bradley, who went to the Oilers in the 6th.
If he stays healthy, Warford is a lock to get drafted.
Summers says playing against the best defensive linemen in the country, every Saturday in the SEC, will prepare Warford for a long career in the pros.
“He’s on track to be very good,” Summers says. “He’s on the path to be an elite offensive lineman. The path is a long one. There’s a lot of ways you can get detoured on that path. But at this point and time, you can see direction that shows you he’s going to separate himself from just an average college football player.”
“I never really set a goal for the NFL,” Warford says. “When I was younger, I was like, ‘I hope I make it to college.’”
His mother remains an inspiration to attain those goals.
“I just keep playing for her. She really motivates me. Hopefully, if I do make it to the NFL, I can support her in return for what she’s done for me.”