hIn 1999, the St. Louis Rams were a bottom rung team led by Dick Vermeil, a coach who had walked away from football in 1982, only to return in 1997 to go 5-11, then 4-12. In St. Louis, Trent Green was our last hope as a quarterback who had some potential, but when we went down with an injury in the pre-season, the regular season seemed to be lost before it started. Literally. No one expected that these afterthought Rams would soon shock the world and win it all by crafting a record-shattering offensive juggernaut, led by an undrafted and unknown backup quarterback named Kurt Warner.
Fast forward to the end of his career, he lands in a backup spot for another bottom rung team, the Arizona Cardinals, and eventually takes them all they way to the Super Bowl: it was again odds-defying. Watching Kurt Warner was like watching Rudy every Sunday – the guy everyone counted out just kept coming back better every time he stepped on the field.
But that is only part of why I love seeing Kurt Warner go into the Hall of Fame. I’ve considered him a Hall of Famer for a long time, not for his QB career, but as the coach of the Good Sports Gang.
The Good Sports Gang was a series of locally produced cartoons geared towards young kids. The first episode centered around Elliot, a boy trying to figure out where he fits in. The gist of the story is that Elliot gets some help and encouragement from the Good Sports Gang, a group of balls from various sports led by their coach Kurt Warner. It was a short-lived but endearing thing, but it reveals the character of the Hall of Famer. When my son was hospitalized, it was the only thing that would keep him calm.
Later on, when Kurt was going through a rough patch of his career in St. Louis, my wife saw Kurt and his kids at a local IHOP (the Warners were regularly seen around town in those days) and quickly told him how much she appreciated his Good Sports videos. He smiled, and was clearly excited to talk about something other than football.
That’s the thing – as a man of deep, abiding faith, Kurt has always worked to spin his success into greater endeavors. From #WarnersWarmup winter coat drives he still runs in St. Louis, to helping underprivileged kids, to his Good Sports Gang videos, his focus has always been to use his success as a platform to encourage others, and this is the quality that makes him a true Hall of Famer, and this is what I and most football fans appreciate most about him.
“God wants us to know that each and every one of us is special, and that is we follow His plan, we can change the world”. Thanks for continuing to change the world, Kurt, and congratulations on your entry to the NFL Hall of Fame.