Kurt Warner’s haunting faith

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals

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?

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  • Chris Bolinger

    Warner’s quote reminds me of the quote from Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire: “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

  • astorian

    I think it comes down to this: logically, Warner knows that he should retire, while he’s still relatively healthy. He’s alreaydy got plenty of money, he’s already won a Super Bowl, and he ahs nothing left to prove in the NFL. If he comes back for another season or two, he’s risking serious, permanent injury and he’s smart enough to know that.

    He’s also selfish and human. He LOVES being an NFL quarterback, and would miss the job, the competition, the camaraderie, everything about being a sports star.

    If he were thinking solely about what’s best for his family or for his own health, he’d quit. He recognizes, however, that his ego may keep him from doing what he KNOWS he should.

    His prayer is a simple one, one may of use have offered to God: “Lord, I know that I want a lot of the wrong things! Help me to STOP wanting them!”

  • Chris Bolinger

    The question that Warner may be asking God, but reporters are very unlikely to ask Warner, is what is best for Warner’s witness? How many people would Warner have reached if he were still packing groceries? How many fewer will he reach after he retires?


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