One of the greatest fairytales in sports has reached its end. Most of us know the story at this point, but thinking about it today, it is still incredible to me. Shunned by the NFL after graduating from Northern Iowa, Kurt Warner was stocking shelves in a grocery store for $5.50 an hour. After stops in the Arena League and NFL Europe, he finally got his shot - as a third string quarterback. That's not exactly a real big chance. I would guess that 90% of the people that might read this can't name the Cardinals' third stringer right now. The rest is history, as they say. Injuries forced him into action, and four weeks into his NFL career he's on the cover of Sports Illustrated under the title "Who IS this guy?"
"This guy" is the man. He is what every athlete should be. God-fearing. Gracious. Humble. Giving. A family man above all else. He is a hero. He is a two-time MVP. And a Super Bowl Champion. One of the best ever. The following quote is a little questionable on metaphors and language, so some of you might just be better off skipping it, but sums up Kurt's quarterbacking ability about as well as anything I've ever read:
"No way in hell I pick against the Cardinals when there's always a chance that Kurt Warner will slaughter a calf for God's glory and be transformed, once more, into '99 Warner, setting the fucking Earth aflame for four weeks straight. I don't give a shit if Boldin or Rodgers-Cromartie aren't playing. If '99 Warner materializes on the field Sunday, Green Bay has no fucking chance. ‘99 Warner can get off atomically precise passes forty yards downfield with seven defenders hanging off of his dick. He can ejaculate through a Froot Loop and not hit the sides of it. He can also turn water into Booker's. There's nothing else like it. I swear, I've never seen a QB play better than when '99 Warner strikes. Ever. Not Brady. Not Manning. No one. He's unstoppable when he's feeling that shit."
He is that good. And he made football in Arizona fun. We're talking about the Arizona Cardinals. PLAYING IN THE SUPER BOWL. It still doesn't make sense. I remember telling a friend before the NFC Championship Game last year that if somehow Kurt led us to the Super Bowl, absolutely anything in this life is possible. And when it happened, I cried. At a sports bar. In public. And I believe it. Absolutely anything. No doubt it took a lot more than just Kurt to get there - Coach Whiz, Fitz, A Dub, Dansby, Dockett, and DRC. It took everyone. But there's no way we get even close without Kurt. No way in hell. Last January was the most incredible month of my life. Call it ridiculous, I don't really care. It's true. And anyone who has grown up on Cardinal football will tell you the exact same thing. There was nothing like that ride last January. I will never forget it.
And as amazing as he was on the field, he was even better off it. There is not a single athlete out there I would rather have a kid looking up to. He is something else. So, so different than 98% of the guys out there. He gets it. This life isn't about us. This life is about grace, and each of us using whatever God has given us, big and small, and honoring Him in it. One of my favorite quotes ever is from my pastor John Lynch, who said:
"This life isn't about arriving any place, it's about returning time and again to the One who brought us here."
That's something that Kurt has always driven home for me, as a Cardinal and otherwise. He went from nothing to the top of the world. And yet, it was never about him. I hope that regardless of what I have in front of me, I can be half of what Kurt was, and is. He'll be missed. Him and his giant sleeves.