I first published this article in January 2016 on my company webpage, 21for21.com. Now that Kurt has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it's even more relevant.
On the plane this week, I watched an NFL Network special on Kurt Warner, former Arizona Cardinals quarterback.
I didn’t see the whole thing, but what I did see was very impressive. I knew he had a son with special needs and was active in causes involving his son’s needs. What I didn’t know was just what a humble, genuine, solid guy he is.
When I started watching, they were talking about how he signed with the Green Bay Packers as his first NFL team and immediately bought a green JMC Jimmy with his $5,000 signing bonus, since he thought he was going to be a Packer for life.
Turns out that wasn’t going to be the case.
At training camp the coach told him to go in. He responded, “I’m not ready.” He wasn’t ready and he got cut.
He moved in with Brenda, his girlfriend, who had two children, taking care of the kids during the day and working at a grocery store at night. One night his car ran out of gas on the highway with the kids in the car. He started contemplating his situation and how disheartening it was to have been an NFL prospect and was now sitting on the side of the highway out of gas.
The idea flashed in his mind to check out the arena football league, which was growing in popularity. He thought, “I’m better than that.” Then he looked at his situation. “Oh yeah, you’re better than that,” he thought to himself. “You’re stocking shelves at night.” So he tried out.
He did well in the league, which got him noticed, and that led him back into the NFL. He did well enough there to become a starting quarterback. Then he did really well, leading the St. Louis Rams to a SuperBowl® victory after the 1999 season and winning a pair of MVP awards.
In subsequent years, however, he lost his rhythm and was replaced by Mark Bulger. Rather than complain and wallow in bitterness, he helped Mark and it was said that he was as excited about Mark’s performance as Mark was himself. That’s an unselfish, humble guy.
During his time with the New York Giants Kurt struggled again and was replaced by Eli Manning, who was just starting his career. Even though Eli played terribly, Kurt refused to create a quarterback controversy. Kurt said the worst decision the team could make would be to send him in in a relief situation for Eli because Eli should be able to play without having to look over his shoulder. Class act.
When he played for the Arizona Cardinals, who had been to the playoffs only one time in 60 years, he was again tasked with helping prepare a franchise quarterback like he was in New York with Eli. What he did was bigger than that. He helped Larry Fitzgerald expand his vision of just how good he could be—and just look how Larry has responded.
Not only did Kurt take the Cardinals to the playoffs, he took them all the way to the SuperBowl® (I wonder if the NFL will have a problem with me promoting their most watched event since they are real sticklers on the trademark for the SuperBowl® - oops, I said it again).
After the Cardinals lost the SuperBowl®, he went to find his family in the stands. He could tell they felt badly for him. He looked at them and said, “Life isn’t about a football game. It’s about moments. It’s about the gifts God gives you and relishing them.” He remarked later that one of the things he regretted about losing the SuperBowl® with the Rams after the 2001 season is that they didn’t celebrate what they had accomplished.
Here are some other interesting facts about the guy. He adopted Brenda’s two kids after they got married. They then had 5 more children, including a set of twin girls.
The most impressive thing, and there were a lot of impressive things mentioned about him in the special, came at the end, when his wife Brenda, the person who knows his faults and flaws as well as anyone on the planet, said, “He is the best person I’ve ever met in my life. The absolute best person. He makes the world a better place.”
Maybe we could all be a little more authentic, humble, devoted, giving, and caring like Kurt Warner.