Kurt Warner: NFL Christian and humanitarian
Legendary quarterback Kurt Warner recently announced his retirement from the Arizona Cardinals, and the sport of football. Warner’s press conference officially ended what has been one of the most unusual professional sports career trajectories in NFL memory. Warner was forced to take a job “stocking grocery store shelves in Iowa” when his dreams of playing in the National Football League ended in rejection (Battista 2010). Warner did not begin playing for the NFL until the age of twenty-eight, after many years in the Arena and the NFL Europe Football leagues. He went on to play twelve years in the NFL, winning one Super Bowl title and two Most Valuable Player awards (Battista 2010). But although Warner may be selected to be part of the Pro-Football Hall of Fame, what is perhaps most extraordinary about him is his durability and resiliency: he has played one of the most difficult positions in one of the most brutal professional sports for many years and recuperated from career-threatening injuries. In a sport plagued by personal scandals, he has proudly proclaimed the importance of his Christian faith.
Warner’s first ‘big break’ came when the St. Louis Rams signed him in 1998, and as an unknown quarterback he led the team to victory after victory: “He was the league and Super Bowl most valuable player that season. He was the league’s MVP again two years later, when the Rams lost the Super Bowl in the final seconds to a burgeoning dynasty from New England” (Battista 2010). But by 2003, after Warner sustained a severe concussion, the Rams failed to renew his contract (Battista 2010). Signed by the Giants in 2004, despite winning five of his first seven games, Warner was soon eclipsed by the ascent of Eli Manning on the team. Finally, in an almost fairytale-like ending, “the Arizona Cardinals, a perennial laughingstock, signed Warner in 2005â€¦and he led the Cardinals to an improbable Super Bowl appearance, where they narrowly lost to the Steelers” (Battista 2010).
“I’m excited about spending more time with my family and seeing what God’s going to do next” said Warner upon the eve of his retirement from professional sports. Warner has remained married to his wife Brenda, through good times and bad. During the leanest years they were forced to scrape by on food stamps (Crouse 2009). Today, when they go out to eat it is not unusual for the Warners to pay for the meal of another family in a restaurant, to show their seven young children the value of charity (Battista 2010). Warner has also unapologetically proclaimed his devout Christian faith throughout his long career, crediting God with his success. This has earned him the respect of even his non-believing teammates.
Brenda, a former Marine, is known for being a strict yet loving parent. The Warners are determined to instill humble Midwestern values in their children: one reason that Warner’s faith is accorded such respect is because of his sincerity and lack of hypocrisy. Before every meal, the family prays, and children must obey certain rules such as “after ordering at a restaurant, be able to tell Mom the server’s eye color,” and “throw away your trash at the movie theater and stack plates for the server at restaurants” (Crouse 2008).
After retirement, Warner will continue to work for the many charities that he has supported in the past, including Habitat for Humanity and the Special Olympics. Warner “believes that his career has gone the way it has for a reason, that he was meant to help people on a wider field than a football field. The test of that is not when things are going well, but when they are going badly. ‘What I saw during the period where the football part kind of got taken away from me was that I was probably more effective for God during that time than I ever was when I was on top,’ Warner said (Zinser 2004). After regaining his success, Warner has continued to try to do good works in the community, and will pursue and expand his charitable efforts in the future.
Battista, Julia. (2010, January 10). Cardinal’s Warner walks away after 12 improbable years.
The New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2010 from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/30/sports/football/30warner.html
Crouse, Karen. (2008, September 26). The rules of the family.
The New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2010 from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/26/sports/football/26rules.html
Crouse, Karen. (2009, April 9). Warner’s family accepts bounty and burden of football.
The New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2010 from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/19/sports/football/19warner.html?_r=1
Zinser, Lynn. (2004, December 18). Warner endures by sharing faith and perspective.
The New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2010 from http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/18/sports/football/18giants.html
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