This post is sponsored by American Underdog, the inspirational true story of legendary NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, in theaters everywhere on Christmas Day.
Today, NFL fans know Kurt Warner as the National Football League’s most incredible underdog story. The Hall of Famer, once signed and released by the Green Bay Packers after going undrafted in 1994, was working at a Hy-Vee grocery store in Iowa while playing arena football before getting his shot in the NFL.
Warner’s is a true American underdog story, proof that anyone can rise to achieve their dreams, so long as they have the will, the work ethic and the faith in themselves to do it.
In his 2017 NFL Hall of Fame Speech, the American Underdog imparted some valuable life lessons he picked up over more than a decade of working his way up from stocking shelves to three Super Bowl appearances.
1. The greatest weaknesses can become your greatest strengths.
When Warner first started playing football on a team, he actually wanted to be a wide receiver. As luck (or fate) would have it, no one was trying out to play quarterback that day. Young Kurt threw the ball the furthest, and became the QB — but he didn’t like it one bit.
Afraid of getting hurt, he spent more time trying not to get hit than throwing the ball. Coach forced Warner to face his fear head-on. He learned to welcome life’s challenges – overcoming a challenge became as important as the challenge itself.
2. Excellence is a mindset to be practiced every minute of every day in everything.
As a young man, Warner also played basketball. His basketball coach was also his football coach, and taught him an important lesson for life, not just sports. During a basketball scrimmage his coach pulled him aside.
“He said he wasn’t interested about the score on the scoreboard or if I was the best player on the court,” Warner said in his 2017 speech. “He wanted to know if I was competing at my highest possible level.”
His coach told him not to let the actions of others, the talent of the competition or the circumstance hinder the pursuit of excellence. It was a lesson that taught Warner not to settle for anything less than his best.
3. Sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do while you wait for what you were born to do.
“Every great narrative has a plot twist,” Warner says. “That 180-degree turn that you never see coming.”
Warner has seen his fair share of plot twists and, if you know anything about his story, you know that some of these setbacks would’ve been devastating to most.
His twists came in college at the University of Northern Iowa, where he rode the bench for four years, the only Hall of Famer to do so. And then there was his “infamous stint at the grocery store.” For years, he took care of his kids during the day while stocking shelves at night and working out to stay in shape. He knew that there was a point of no return and he would need to change course. He says he was crippled by the fear of the unknown and needed to be pushed past it.
Those pushes came in the form of a Wheaties box with Dan Marino on the front. Marino’s eyes seemed to follow him throughout the night, daring him to take the leap. A few nights later, he was driving home in the cold, when his truck ran out of gas. As he jogged to a gas station, he thought, “My kids deserve so much better than this.”
He swore it would never happen again and vowed to make that change.
4. No great accomplishment is ever accomplished alone.
“Those pinnacle accomplishments on the field were simply byproducts of the moments that would lay the foundation of the man who stands here this evening,” Warner said in his riveting speech.
As he sat on the bench in college, he considered a transfer so he could play. When he called his mom, she told him to be grateful for the opportunity, even if it didn’t look like he wanted it to look. She told him to never stop working, because God had a plan and he needed to be ready when it came apparent. Finally, she told him that he isn’t a quitter, and they would get through it together.
His mother was an example he strove to emulate — he admired her commitment to hard work, her consistently rising to meet responsibility and her will to never stop believing. She was the embodiment of his spirit of perseverance. It helped him get through years of watching games from the bench.
Warner also talks about his wife, who was there with him throughout his career, feeling every hit and taking every criticism of his performance, even when she was struggling with her own issues. Brenda Warner introduced? Kurt for his Hall of Fame speech and was on stage with him because, according to Kurt, “she deserved to share [the] stage.” She was the bedrock of his Hall of Fame career.
“It always starts with someone taking a chance on you,” he says. For Warner, that chance came in the form of St. Louis Rams Head Coach Dick Vermeil, who made Warner his third-string QB and would coach the Rams to a Super Bowl.
5. Moments matter. Don’t miss your moments.
“Moments matter,” Warner said. “They leave their impression upon us, they shape how we live our lives and they impact who we become. They also offer us something possibly more valuable: the opportunity to leave a lasting mark on the world around us.”
His speech was intended to thank everyone who made a mark on him, because as he said, those moments made all the difference. He implored everyone to not miss their moments; the moments to be impacted, and the moments to impact.
Warner says his accomplishments might have been those moments at the end of his football career, but now believes that isn’t the case. They are the moments you can’t plan for or foresee.
The moments he refers to are moments that weren’t seen on the field, but would lay the foundation for his underdog story, moments that shaped who he became. The day he wrote his name on the back of his jersey for the first time, playing football with his brothers, and saying “yes” to spending time with his children.
“I believe I stand here tonight because of what I did with the moments I was given,” he said. “Although impact is measured over a career, it is established in the moments, regardless of how many or how few you’re blessed with.”
If you love Kurt Warner’s story, then check out the trailer below for a sneak peek at American Underdog!
This post was sponsored by American Underdog, the inspirational true story of legendary NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, in theaters everywhere on Christmas Day.