Like Polamalu, Kurt Warner seeks to live his life as an example of his Christian faith. Warner had also been to the Super Bowl before this one. He led the St. Louis Rams in two Super Bowl games, winning one of them. Kurt knows the pressure that comes with that kind of spotlight, especially as a starting quarterback. Unlike Polamalu, however, Warner knows that life in the NFL can be pretty hard if you don’t win.
Some people are calling Warner’s 2009 return to the Super bowl with the Arizona Cardinals a “comeback”. Kurt identifies the time between his glory days with the Rams and his 2005 arrival in Arizona as a dark time that led him to seek God. Perhaps, instead of a comeback, this Super bowl visit was a reward for his fidelity.
Adversity has not been a stranger to Kurt. Warner began his career as a free agent, and had to prove himself in Arena football and European leagues before catching his first big break and becoming a Super bowl champion.
In his personal life, Kurt had to work hard to prove himself to his wife when he first met her, as well. She had two children from a previous marriage, one of them a son with special needs. She tried to discourage his interest in her, but Kurt wouldn’t go away.
Today Kurt and his wife, Brenda, have seven children; he legally adopted the two she already had, and they have had five more together. Their family also struggled when Brenda’s parents, who had retired and just moved to Arkansas, were both tragically killed in a tornado. All of these events reminded Kurt that God is truly most important in life.
“If you ever really want to do a story about who I am, God’s got to be at the center of it. Every time I hear a piece or read a story that doesn’t have that, they’re missing the whole lesson of who I am.” Kurt has told the Arizona Republic how much it pains him when reporters don’t take his faith seriously.
He explains that he feels responsible because of the “platform that football has given him”, to share the truth of his faith with others. He doesn’t want to be “in your face” about it. It is just a very real part of who he is as a person. It has helped him handle adversity, and it has helped him to handle success as well.
Before the 2009 Super Bowl began Kurt was given a special honor, the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. This award is given to a player who gives selflessly to his community. Kurt and Brenda have given more than $1.5 million and countless hours of their time to charities like Make a Wish, Habbitat for Humanity, the Special Olympics, and medical mercy missions with the US Armed Forces. Kurt responded, “I am humbled the Lord has given me such an amazing life to impact others. Of all the awards given to NFL athletes, the Walter Payton Man of the Year is the one that stands out above the rest to me because of what it represents. When people look back at my career I want them to see a fierce competitor, but more importantly, I want to be remembered for my consistency of character and the legacy I hope to leave…”
Although Arizona didn’t win the Super Bowl, Kurt played a great game. He had the second highest passing yardage in Super Bowl history (Kurt also holds 1st and 3rd place in this category), and he broke the record for lifetime Super Bowl passing yards. Warner led his team in a fourth quarter comeback against the Steelers’ #1 rated defense, and nearly won the game if not for an amazing Pittsburgh drive in the final minutes. Kurt said he was proud of his teammates and all they had accomplished.
Fame, success, and football aren’t the driving forces in these two athletes’ lives. Troy Polamalu and Kurt Warner use their fame, success, and football, as instruments to glorify what they know is the most important thing in life: living a Christian witness, both to the world of football and beyond. They try to become men of character through football and their love of God, both on and off the field.
The Super Bowl is always the biggest game in football, but there is a bigger game. It’s the the game of becoming real men and women. Examples like Troy and Kurt help us to examine our own lives and ask ourselves, are we winning the game about the most important things in life?