For the first eight weeks of the season, flanker Perky Warner was the forgotten man in the Howard offense.
After spending his freshman season punting and waiting for a chance to show his offensive skills, the 5-foot-7, 160-pound former all-Met tailback from Friendly made the starting lineup this season, returning kickoffs and punts and sharing the flanker spot with Kevin Watkins.
Running in with pass plays mostly designed for Tracy Singleton (51 catches for 763 yards) did nothing for Warner's confidence and left him feeling like an extra.
Before the Norfolk State game, Warner had caught only four passes for 34 yards and rushed for 37 yards on five end-around plays. He had averaged 16 yards on eight kickoff returns and less than four yards on 10 punt returns.
"This was the first time I ever ran back punts or kickoffs and I was sort of feeling my way," said Warner. "I worked hard all summer at returning kicks and catching passes. There were times I was open, but circumstances stopped me from getting the ball. If my pattern freed Singleton, then that's fine. I knew there would be times when the coverage would stop Singleton and I would be free."
Warner's time came in the 24-18 final-second win at Norfolk State two weeks ago. The sophomore caught four passes for 95 yards during the game, including a 50-yard touchdown catch. Warner also returned a punt 47 yards to set up a touchdown and caught a 16-yard pass during the Bison's 95-yard winning touchdown drive.
"Everything worked that day," said Warner. "The blocks were there on the punts and I found some openings on the pass patterns. It was my first (college) touchdown and it came at the right time for me. The year had been a big disappointment for me and I needed a big game to get things back together."
Warner and the Bison (5-4), who did not play last week, are looking for their fifth straight victory Saturday when they play Western Illinois (1-8) at Howard Stadium at 1 p.m.
Howard Coach Floyd Keith is trying to forget about Western Illinois' record, insisting the visitors are better than that.
"They have good size, one of the best kickoff return people around (Jerome Stelly) and a sharp secondary," Keith said. "I expect a tough game and we have to play well to beat them. I was glad to see Perky have a good day. He's quick, elusive and has a lot of ability. He provides us with another threat."
Warner is hoping his big day against Norfolk State will lead to his number being called more frequently Saturday and in the season finale against Morgan State.
"My shoulder is still not 100 percent and I know my size hampers my blocking at times," said Warner, who is also the center fielder and leadoff batter on the baseball team. "But I can contribute if I get the ball. I don't know if I'm still the forgotten man anymore. I hope all the teams forget about me."