By Mike Hoffman – Sports Information Director
The hallways were not safe and the recess fields provided little protection. Hard feelings prevailed, bones were broken and counselors were called in to quell the passions that flared up without warning.
Yep, the Montagues and Capulets had nothing on the fifth graders at Christ Our King School in Mount Pleasant. But it was in this environment that the seeds of a lifelong friendship between Bay Amrhein and Thomas Warren were planted.
The duo has been teammates throughout their time at Christ Our King, Bishop England High School and now as seniors at The Citadel. They played football and basketball together, winning consecutive state championships in seventh and eighth grade. However, it was another sport that almost came between them.
“My homeroom had all of the kids who played football; Thomas’ had the kids who played soccer. That’s how the homerooms were divided,” said Amrhein.
“I was neutral because I played football and soccer,” added Warren. “I was friends with Bay but he hated all my soccer friends. Every day someone got hurt or there was a fight.”
“You could feel the tension all day long,” remembered Amrhein. “As we got older there was bullying going on. Looking back on it, it’s hilarious.”
Childhood rivalries eventually gave way to the relative maturity of high school where Amrhein and Warren were again teammates on the Bishop England football team. Warren continued to play soccer as well, earning all-state honors in that sport while helping lead the Bishops to two state titles.
And both were thriving on the football field. Amrhein had 24 career sacks and was named to the all-state team his senior season. Warren was ranked as the No. 38 kicker in the nation the same year. The Charleston-area natives had choices of where they wanted to attend college.
“At first I wanted to leave and get very far away from here,” said Amrhein. “When Coach (Bob) Fello started recruiting me when I was a sophomore, I told him there was no way I was going to The Citadel.
“But I always realized in the back of my mind I was going there but never told a soul, even my parents. I kept thinking I would change my mind.”
Amrhein expected to have at least a few of his friends from the Bishop England football team, including Warren and former Bulldog Martin Fosberry, joining him at The Citadel. As time went on, however, he began to get a sinking feeling.
“I committed to play here after the first semester of my senior year. Then Martin said he was going to Auburn and not play football, and Thomas said he was going to go to (South) Carolina.”
In the end all three wound up at The Citadel, with Warren committing over Christmas break, but it was Amrhein and Warren whose friendship continued to blossom. The two became roommates following their knob year and have been the football team’s version of Brangelia ever since. Warren laughed at that comparison.
“We were like the Boyle brothers (former Bulldogs and twin brothers Austin and Davis),” said Warren. “Our teammates joked that you never see one without the other.”
Since both were business administration majors who graduated in May 2013 and are now pursuing their MBAs at The Citadel, their time together extended beyond the barracks and the football field.
“We would wake up in our room, go to the same classes, take naps at the same time and then went out to football,” said Amrhein. “We ate every meal together. At times we’d see each other 24 hours in a row for five days until the weekend. And we also lived together during the summer.”
One would think that all this familiarity would breed at least a little contempt, and the pair acknowledges there are times that all their closeness is not necessarily a good thing. But both are equally quick to point out that they don’t let bad feelings linger.
“We’ve always been open and straightforward with each other,” admitted Amrhein. “If one of us got on the other’s nerves, we are like ‘I need to get out of here; I can’t hang out with you right now.’ But we haven’t been in any big arguments or fights.”
As the end of their time at The Citadel begins to draw near, could these two possibly see a move away from Charleston? Perhaps not surprisingly, both see a future which takes them to other parts of the area – or country – but with the understanding that home is always at the forefront of their minds.
“It would be a good thing for me to leave for a little while, but I want to come back here,” said Amrhein. “My whole family is here and family is very important to me. But it would be a good experience to see what else is out there.”
Amrhein, the son of an airline pilot, has had opportunities to travel and see the country. Warren, on the other hand, has been a bit of a homebody.
“When we went to Chattanooga two years ago, it was the first time I’d ever been in a state that wasn’t touching the Atlantic Ocean,” said Warren.
“I love being from Charleston. My whole family lives in the same neighborhood,” continued Warren. “My grandma lives five doors down, and my aunt lives across the street. But I’ve been here for 22 years so I want to get away, maybe get a job in the region, so I can miss it and want to come back.”
There will be a time – and sooner rather than later – when Amrhein and Warren won’t be together. It will be an adjustment but time and distance cannot break the bonds that have gotten stronger through the years.
“When the season is over, I don’t think much will change between myself and Bay,” predicted Warren. “He will always be one of my best friends and someone I can always count on. We have had a good run, and I am glad to have had Bay as my roommate and teammate.