As Chance Warmack stood in front of reporters last month at the NFL Scouting Combine, the group interview seemed to morph into stand-up comedy at times.
For example …
Reporter: “How did you get your name?”
Warmack: “It came from a movie. My mom and my dad went to see a movie, and the main character was named Chance.”
Reporter: “What was the name of the movie?”
Warmack: “I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I wasn’t born yet.”
Although he cracked up the assembled media with that exchange and a few other memorable responses, it’s certainly not a laughing matter when Warmack, a 6-foot-2, 317-pound guard from the University of Alabama, goes to work in the trenches. Especially for the defenders he routinely buries.
“Off the field, when we’re on the side, he’s one of the coolest dudes ever,” Alabama running back Eddie Lacy said. “When it’s time to go in and get some reps in this game, he’s different. He’s just a different person to whoever gets in his way. You’re going to move or get run over — one of the two.”
Warmack is considered a surefire first-round pick in this year’s draft, which runs April 25-27, and some analysts believe he’ll even become a top-10 pick. A guard hasn’t cracked the top 10 since the New Orleans Saints selected Chris Naeole 10th overall in 1997.
The Browns have the sixth overall pick, and they’re in the market for a guard partly because the status of Jason Pinkston remains uncertain. Pinkston, a starting left guard, had his 2012 season cut short after doctors discovered a blood clot in his lung. The Browns talked to Warmack at the combine, and they’re scheduled to bring North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper, another guard some believe has top-10 potential, to their headquarters for a pre-draft visit.
However, Browns CEO Joe Banner might as well have scoffed when asked at the combine if it would be too early to draft a guard at No. 6.
“I mean if you knew he was [hall of famer] John Hannah I guess maybe not, but it wouldn’t fit,” Banner said. “I wouldn’t rule anything out, but it wouldn’t philosophically fit with how we’re approaching the priorities and how we’re building the team. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t an exception or unusual situation or a player that’s so special that you wouldn’t look at.”
In other words, Warmack and Cooper would probably only become realistic options for the Browns if they traded down, which isn’t out of the question. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, on the other hand, believes Warmack is the best player in this year’s draft and wouldn’t balk at nabbing him in any slot.
“I would have no hesitation taking Chance Warmack at 10,” Mayock said last month during a conference call. “And to be honest with you, if I was [picking] one through nine, I wouldn’t have any hesitation of taking him, either.”
Warmack, 21, is determined to prevent the hype from going to his head.
“It makes me feel good to get the level of respect in that manner,” said Warmack, an Atlanta native. “But at the same time, I don’t really pay attention to that too much. I know where I came from, I know where I started and that’s the same mentality I have now. I appreciate the praise, but nothing’s perfect. I’m human. I make mistakes.”
His resume suggests he hasn’t erred often.
Warmack started all 40 games at left guard during the past three seasons, paving the way for Lacy and former Alabama and current Browns running back Trent Richardson to help the Crimson Tide win the past two national championships.
“Playing beside Chance, that’s a huge advantage,” said Barrett Jones, who started at center for Alabama this past season and left tackle the year before. “He really made me look good. A lot of my highlight film has to be on combo blocks with Chance.”
As a senior, Warmack was a unanimous first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC selection. During the 2012 regular season, Warmack allowed 3½ sacks in 287 pass attempts, led the team with 37 pancake blocks and graded out at an average of 89.4 on his assignments, according to Alabama.
“What makes him special?” Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker said. “The nastiness that he’s got — that’s the main thing. He’s aggressive. [He] let’s you know that he dominated you when he walks back and looks at you in the face.”
Warmack believes his mean streak has evolved.
“As I got to college, I kind of understood it better in terms of no mercy,” said Warmack, who’s known for donning small jerseys and letting his gut hang out on the gridiron. “It’s not play. This is a real game, and I think that’s the mentality that you’re going to have to have going to the next level.
“You just get into that zone, and you just block everything out. You have to execute on the play. Whoever’s playing against you is the enemy. I don’t know them. They don’t know me. So it’s fair game.”
Warmack said it would be an honor to be drafted early especially because guards seldom are. Clad in a bright orange hoodie, black track pants and sky blue tennis shoes while he stood behind the podium at the combine, Warmack acknowledged he doesn’t play a glamorous position. Still, he has no complaints.
“I’m not a glamorous person — look at what I’m wearing,” Warmack said, drawing more laughter. “I love it, though. I love being big and mean.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.