On the football field, Wayne Warsaw made his name on the offensive line. As a left tackle at Brentwood High School and C.W. Post University in the first half of the 1990s, and later as a semi-pro football player and offensive line coach at Brentwood, Warsaw embraced the role of protector, making sure no one got to the quarterback without going through him first.
Off the football field, Warsaw was the same way.
“He was an O-line guy through and through,” said Rich DeJesus, head football coach at Brentwood High School. “[He was] everything you’d want. He was a family man, protector, unselfish, just like a true lineman is.”
Warsaw, who grew up in Brentwood and lived in Manor Park, died on Dec. 8 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan after a month-long battle with neuroendocrine cancer, surrounded by family and friends, his brother Bryan of Moriches said. He was 45.
His favorite quote was, “Life’s too short, do what you love, and do it with all your heart,” his wife of 16 years, Danielle, said.
Born Aug. 12, 1974, at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, Warsaw was C.W. Post’s top recruited lineman in 1994. Warsaw’s college career was cut short after a car accident following his sophomore season. Though it appeared unlikely he would play football again, Warsaw played 16 seasons of semi-professional football, playing on the Brooklyn Knights, Long Island Seahawks, Brooklyn Mariners, Nassau Punishers and Nassau Golden Eagles, among others. He was an all-star in all 16 of his semi-pro seasons and was elected to the AAA Minor League Football Hall of Fame in 2013, Bryan said.
After taking jobs in security and warehouse management, Warsaw went back to school in 2007 and graduated from Stony Brook in 2010 with a degree in English education. He earned his master’s in TESOL (teachers of English to speakers of other languages) from Touro College in Bay Shore in 2017.
Nicknamed “Big Wayne,” Warsaw started working as an English for New Learners teacher at Brentwood South Middle School in 2014. In addition to spending the last three seasons as a varsity football assistant coach, Warsaw was the head coach of the Brentwood East Middle School football team in 2015 and 2016 and also coached girls volleyball and basketball at Brentwood South Middle School for five years.
“The kids loved him,” said Brentwood Athletic Director Kevin O’Reilly. “He always had large numbers of kids on his teams. They liked to be around him. He taught more than just the sport, he taught life lessons. He was a giant teddy bear.”
As an experienced offensive lineman, Warsaw knew the position as well as anyone, DeJesus said.
“As far as technique goes, he was one of the best I’ve ever been around in my 12 years,” DeJesus said. “His ability to develop them, not just as O-lineman, but as young men. He did an amazing job as far as the details, technique, and the progression of the kids over the last three years.”
Warsaw treated his players like sons, DeJesus said.
“He was a great, wonderful and kind individual,” said senior center and defensive end Steve Bohlman. “As a coach, he went above and beyond. He played a father role in my life and many of my teammates.”
When Bohlman lost his father to cancer this fall, Warsaw was there with support and compassion, even standing with Bohlman, his mother, and sister when he was introduced as part of the Indians’ Senior Day celebration.
“I was proud,” Bohlman said. “Words couldn’t really explain it. I was honored that, as a coach and an individual, no matter what, he was still standing with me.”
Bohlman continued: “He made me a better center, but he made me much more of a better man and individual than I would ever be without him.”
Warsaw was a devoted family man who cared for his daughter Layla when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. Layla is now cancer-free.
“He was so proud of the warrior she is,” Danielle said.
Warsaw is survived by his wife, Danielle, daughters Layla, Jillian, Camryn, and Madyn, mother Dolores of East Islip, sister Gayle Doyle and brother-in-law Kenn of Wading River, sister Debbi Warsaw-Curley and brother-in-law Kevin of Bohemia, Lynda Reynolds of Port Jefferson, brother Garry and sister-in-law Cindy of Oakdale, brother Bryan of Moriches, brother Dennis and sister-in-law Giovanna of Holtsville, mother-in-law and father-in-law Rosanne and Joe Albanese of West Islip, brother and sister-in-law Michael and Kerri Guarascio of Commack and sister-in-law Samantha Albanese of Jacksonville, Florida, and nine nieces and nephews.
As per Warsaw’s wishes, no wake or funeral was held. He was cremated. A celebration of life will be held in the spring, Bryan said.
As a last wish, Warsaw’s brain, eyes, and spinal column fluid were donated for research purposes to Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center to determine the connection between repeated concussions and CTE, Bryan said.
“Until the end,” Bryan said, “he was selfless.”