In honor of Kurt Warner's retirement announcement today, I've decided to re-post this blog entry, that I first did one year ago, for Character Counts. Thanks Kurt, for being a rare class act in the professional sports world. You will be missed.
Once again, it was really easy to choose the person I wanted to spotlight and honor for Character Counts. And once again it is loosely associated with timing. I have lived in the Phoenix area for most of my life. In 1988, we got our first NFL football team – the Cardinals (formerly of St. Louis). It was rather exciting for us, but the Cards have just never really done much since they’ve been here. This year that changed, when they went to the Super Bowl as a Cinderella story, led by quarterback Kurt Warner. No, we didn’t win, but we certainly didn’t lose either.
I chose Kurt Warner, not because of the Super Bowl, or because he is a really good quarterback, but because he is a really good person and man of God. In order to maintain brevity, I’ll not focus on his professional history or accomplishments unless they pertain to a point I am making. Kurt doesn’t want professional achievements and statistics to be his legacy, but rather he wants to be known and remembered for serving and for using his privilege to help others. It was announced during the Super Bowl, that Kurt received a very special award – the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award (which is given by the NFL, honoring a player's volunteer and charity work, as well as his excellence on the field). As much as he wanted to win the Super Bowl, this means even more to him.
Kurt was born on June 22, 1971 and was raised in Iowa. His family was Catholic, but not devout. When he was six, his parents divorced. He grew up playing football for his high school and then played college ball for University of Northern Iowa. After college, his quest to be a professional football player was very rocky and filled with much adversity.
While in college, he met his future wife, Brenda, in a bar. Though they had a good time that night, when they were leaving, Brenda thanked him for the good time and said since she was a single mom of two children, one seriously disabled and the other a baby, and living in her parents basement, she understood if she didn’t hear from him again. He brought her roses the next day and asked to meet her children. (Brenda was a veteran of the U.S. Marines and was divorced. Her older child, a son named Zachary, was dropped by his father when he was four months old and became severely brain damaged, as well as paraplegic. Brenda became pregnant again when Zachary was two years old. When she was eight months pregnant, her husband left the family because he couldn’t handle it anymore.)
Kurt didn’t let these difficulties deter him from dating Brenda. The two dated for five years before they got married in 1997. Throughout this time, Kurt struggled to build his career and never gave up, despite the adversity he faced. When they married, Kurt adopted Zachary and Jesse, and today the family has expanded to a total of seven children. In 1996 Kurt became a Christian and became completely sold out for Christ. He now sees his role here is not to play football and win games, which is merely his job and platform. His role, purpose, is to win as many people as he can to Jesus.
Wherever Kurt and Brenda are living for his work, they are very involved in the community. He speaks regularly at churches, schools and other functions. They began their own charity, Kurt Warner’s First Things First, founded in 2001, to help those less fortunate in the community. Through the foundation, they’ve, given a house to a family who lost theirs in Katrina, provided a single father in need furniture for his home, taken (not just sent) needy families to Disneyland, and provided game tickets to disadvantaged and at-risk youth through faith-based social service agencies. Kurt has helped in community projects like building a school and filling stockings for 100 foster children at Sunshine Acres Children’s Home, in Mesa, AZ. (There are many other ways they are involved, but I’ll leave it at this.)
Kurt is both respected and reviled for his faith and good works. Some people (other players, media and ordinary folk) mock or avoid him for his faith, but that doesn’t stop him. You may not hear him mention Jesus in every interview, but that’s not because he’s not saying it. A great frustration of his is how often his witness and testimony are edited out of anything he says. He even brings his Bible to every press conference he participates in. He is a Christian who believes completely that to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48). Yes, he has his detractors. Still, a lot more people look up to him for his faith and good works, and also for his attitude, his integrity, his perseverance, his optimism, his experience, and his character. His very good character. Yes, I believe that Kurt Warner is a hero, but not because of his performance on the field. It is because of the life he lives, the way he leads and the example he sets. Kurt Warner is a man who knows that Character Counts!
If you are interested in finding out more about or contributing financially to Kurt's First Things First Foundation simply go to the website at http://www.kurtwarner.org/.
30 minutes ago