Brett Favre’s NFL season is over. Mark Sanchez’ is too. And with the Chargers collapse last week, so is mine. But for Kurt Warner, a phenomenal NFL career may be over.
Warner is 38 and playing as well now as he ever has. In the wild card round against the Packers, Warner threw more touchdowns (five) than incompletions (four). But Warner, who has had a history of concussions and a propensity for sharing his faith even when not given the chance, clearly has an awareness that life is about more than football:
There is dishonesty in telling his story if you ignore what drives him, especially if you accept its role in one of the NFL’s great success stories.
That line appeared in the Arizona Republic last year when Warner’s Cardinals were on their way to the Super Bowl. What drives Warner is obvious if you’ve ever heard him speak: God. Or, more specifically, Jesus. And in the Republic, Paola Boivin explored this with more grace and skill than Warner’s faith often receives.
This storyline has been conspicuously missing from reports that Warner may have, voluntarily, played his last game. (Even Boivin gave it only a passing mention in an article last week weighing the whys and why nots of whether Warner will retire.) And it was painfully glossed over in an ESPN The Magazine column by Rick Reilly.
In the column, Reilly makes it very, very, very clear Warner is done playing professional football. And he seems to be encouraging the future Hall of Famer to get out while he can still walk. Reilly also includes these two paragraphs:
Brenda Warner — the most quotable wife in the NFL — has said the decision is between “Kurt and God.” What does that mean, exactly?
“It means I pray that God takes away the desire in me to play this game,” he says. “I’ve loved it for so long. I need Him to take that away from me, so that I can be comfortable with this decision.”
A religion ghost of a most unusual kind — God is there but His full role isn’t defined. Reilly seems to be acknowledging just how central Warner’s faith is to this decision but he doesn’t know what to do with it. Is God telling Warner to do something else or does Warner just want God to tell him it’s OK to leave?