Kevin Warren has, through adversity, forged a career of firsts.
The 56-year-old officially took over Jan. 2 as Big Ten commissioner, becoming the first person of color to assume command of a Power 5 collegiate sports conference.
Before that Warren was the first person of color to hold the position Chief Operating Officer in NFL history when he was hired as COO for the Minnesota Vikings, a team he had worked for since 2005. Warren was also the highest-ranking person of color working on the business side for an NFL franchise.
But this is his most high-profile opportunity yet, and a heavy one at that. In taking over for previous commissioner Jim Delaney, Warren will be just the sixth commissioner in Big Ten history.
“This is not something I look at as, ‘hey look at me,’ " Warren said on the Working Class HUMP podcast. “I look at it as 'I need to help open doors for other people and make sure I represent all those who apply for these positions in the future.' "
Warren led an interesting childhood while growing up in Phoenix.
In the HUMP Podcast, host Jon Deitz questions Warren about his childhood and background in Phoenix. This 68-minute interview probes Warren's background and the experiences that have shaped him. Listen to the full interview here
His father, Dr. Morrison Warren Sr., was a school teacher who was recently named among the top 50 Arizona State football players. His mother was a librarian.
“We grew up, ironically, across the street from the honorable Elijah Muhammad (leader of the Nation of Islam)," Warren said. "To have someone of that magnitude on our street, and Muhammad Ali come into the neighborhood — and see him walking up and down the street — it really made you proud to be a young black boy.”
Dietz said the interview is about Warrent setting a precedent.
"Like Jackie Robinson or the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. he is setting an example as a man of integrity and character that will forever change the course of the Big 10 and college football as a whole,” Dietz said.
The interview also gives more than a peek into who Warren is as a person and a leader.
“I’m a big believer in just getting after it,” Warren said. “Work hard and leave a legacy. That’s the one thing I strive for every single day.”
Jan Almasy and Jacob Popio, who produce the Working Class HUMP Podcast, said growing up as Big 10 fans, they considered it a coup to interview Warren.
"We think that this interview really showcases a side of Kevin that may not get as much coverage as the sides associated with professional or collegiate sports," Almasy said. "It gave Kevin the intimate ability to tell his story in a way that truly highlighted not only the accomplishment of being appointed B1G 10 Commissioner, but more importantly the journey that led him there.”