The NFL was always a long shot for Kahale Warring, who stepped onto a football field for the first time as a Sonora High School senior.
But at the NFL Scouting Combine next week, Warring will get the chance to show what he can do.
Warring, a tight end at San Diego State University, will participate in 2019 NFL combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis from Feb. 28 through March 3.
Sonora High School football coach Brian Craig said anybody who has seen Warring play recognized his talent, dominant athleticism and preparedness.
Few realized the work it took Warring to get to that point.
“When he came on he knew nothing about running football routes. Maybe the first 10 balls, he dropped four or five,” said Craig. “But he had raw talent to where he had speed, he had size. Once he learned how to run routes correctly and catch the ball, all of it was already there.”
Warring knows he still has a long way to go. But if the combine gave him an opportunity to be drafted, he said he would be ready.
“Football is still new to me. I've only been playing for a few years,” Warring, 21, said. “I'm learning a few things every time I’m around the sport. I’m really trying to be a student of the game right now.”
The NFL combine gives prospects the opportunity to participate in a variety of speed and strength drills in anticipation of the NFL Draft, which begins on April 25.
Warring is ranked on the NFL combine website as not only having a chance to be drafted, but also with a chance to be an NFL starter.
He is described by the combine as, “exciting and ascending” despite being “a relative newcomer to the game.”
“He has the size, speed and athleticism to become a versatile, high-impact player on the pro level,” the website said.
At 6 foot 6 inches and 250 pounds, Warring was a formidable force in every sport he played before football, including basketball, water polo and tennis.
“Our family, we just weren't huge into football,” said Warring’s stepdad, Sonora High School basketball coach Lloyd Longeway. “I really feel like all of the sports he played growing up have helped him for this. They've all taught him different lessons to be prepared for this situation.”
At the age of 2, Warring ran his first mile with his mother, Nichole.
As he grew up, Warring would get up at 5 a.m. to join runners with headlamps on runs throughout Columbia College. By the age of 10, he was nationally ranked in the Junior Olympics for track field and traveled around the country to compete, Longeway said.
“He’s trained and competed for a long time. I think that running helped instill mental toughness. No matter how much pain you go through, sometimes you gotta keep going,” he said.
Even in adolescence, Warring’s hobbies centered on athletics, whether it was snowboarding or basketball, Lloyd Longeway added.
Warring has two younger stepbrothers who live in Bend, Oregon, and a younger sister, who does cross country and dance at Summerville High School in Tuolumne, Lloyd Longeway said.
Under the guidance of Craig and his teammates, Warring thrived in football.
Craig recalled an incredible touchdown catch in the 2014 CIF Sac-Joaquin section finals against the Central Catholic High School Raiders that proved Warring’s talent.
“He was covered like a blanket and went up with very little room, but he came up and got it,” Craig said. “You would have to see it to describe it with words.”
Sonora High School went on to lose the game, 42-35.
Warring said he tried to bring the same competitive edge to football he brought to his other sports.
“You don't go out to practice and go through the motions, you go out to compete and play better than everyone,” he said.
Warring realized he could compete at the top level in football when his first two catches with SDSU turned out to be touchdowns.
Warring made the first on an over route to the end zone against Northern Illinois University, and the next against the University of South Alabama.
“That was a feeling I could never really explain because it was so awesome. You work your butt off coming in as walk-on, under weight and working your way up. Then you get on the field and your first catch is a touchdown,” he said.
Warring was awarded a scholarship at SDSU before the 2017 season. SDSU is a NCAA Division 1 school in the Mountain West Conference.
According to the NFL combine website, Warring was named honorable mention All-Mountain West for his 31 receptions (a total of 372 yards and two touchdowns), despite two starts in 12 games.
Warring is one semester from graduation at SDSU, but he is putting aside his college aspirations — for now — to focus on making it to the NFL.
As the combine draws closer, Warring said he won’t succumb to pressure.
“You can't let that get to you. At this stage, there's going to be pressure throughout your whole career. You're not going to make it if you fall under pressure. It’s got to be something you look forward to,” he said.
Warring trains alongside players from the University of Texas, the University of Alabama, Washington State University and University of Mississippi in Irvine with the athletic representation group “Rep 1.”
Warring also studies professional players that he may someday play with or against. He was most impressed by Zach Ertz, a tight end with the Philadelphia Eagles, and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Warring said he has no preference among the NFL teams.
“You just want to be drafted,” he said. “I’m excited to be able to show all the teams what I can do at the combine.”
Craig said he was excited about Warring’s prospects, from the combine to the draft.
“I’ve already marked the day on my calendar,” Craig said of the combine. “I’m going to be watching.”