Today, as we all expected, Kurt Warner officially announced his retirement from the game of football. A much storied career that spanned from 1998 to 2009 was finally brought to an end.
Warner retired from the National Football League with a long list of accolades. Two Most Valuable Player awards. Three Super Bowl appearances with two different teams and a new head coach each time. The most passing yards in Super Bowl history. And the second highest passer rating in the history of postseason play.
Although I certainly didn't enjoy watching my Eagles get torched by Kurt Warner's aerial attack, it's not the player Kurt Warner whom I will miss the most. It's the man.
The expression "He was a better person than he was an athlete" has been used many times before, and to be honest, it's usually not true. But then there are a few cases where it does apply. The late great Reggie White. Former Eagles superstar Brian Dawkins. And yes, Kurt Warner.
Backtrack 13 years ago.
In 1996, Kurt Warner was an aspiring NFL player who played for the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League. Kurt's career had not reached its pinnacle--and neither had his faith.
"God wasn't the reason I lived my life," said Warner. "He wasn't the focus of everything I did. I felt like God should be a part of my life, but I really didn't know the extent that I needed to give my life to Him like I do now."
Then something happened that changed Kurt Warner's life forever. On April 14, 1996, a tornado struck in Arkansas and killed both parents of Brenda Meoni, Kurt's girlfriend. That tragic event changed the way both Kurt and Brenda looked at life.
Looking back, Kurt says: "That situation showed me that you don't know what is going to happen tomorrow. You have to live life for today and for this moment. It was at that point that I realized the Lord needed to be at the center of my life. I couldn't wait until tomorrow or next year. It needed to be right now."
Now Kurt Warner is an outspoken Christian and is extremely passionate about his faith. After every game, win or lose, Kurt Warner has always given credit to the real hero: Jesus Christ.
Thanks to Kurt's quick rise to stardom, his faith has become public knowledge.
After Super Bowl XXXIV, in which Warner was named the game's MVP, he was asked by ABC's Mike Tirico to talk about his game-winning touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce. Warner's response? "Well first things first, I've got to thank my Lord and Savior up above--thank you, Jesus!"
Nine years later, Warner led the Cardinals to their first-ever Super Bowl appearance, and again took an opportunity in the spotlight to make sure to thank Jesus for giving him the talent to play professional football.
Warner says that thanking God after a game is not just about the physical aspect of playing football. "It's not for something specific that he did on the football field to help us win. It's for everything he has done in my life up to that point and for everything he will continue to do in my life from here until eternity."
Kurt Warner has also long been known as a philanthropist. He has appeared in many public service advertisements for Civitan International, which promotes work with the developmentally disabled.
In 2001, Kurt, with the help of his wife Brenda, founded an organization called First Things First, which pays for a week-long trip to Walt Disney World for lots of children each year. Warner even titled his second autobiography, released in 2009, First Things First.
Warner's awards have come piling in over the last two years.
In 2008, he was given the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year award. In March of 2009, he was honored with the Muhammad Ali Sports Leadership award. He was also selected by USA Weekend as the winner of its annual Most Caring Athlete award for 2009. And in December of 2009, Warner topped a Sports Illustrated poll of NFL players to name the best role model on and off the field.
Simply put, Kurt Warner is the absolute definition of a class act. His Hall of Fame credentials on the playing field will be heavily debated for the next few years, but as a person, Kurt Warner should be a Hall of Famer in everybody's book.