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Kurt Warner: beyond the hype

By Mike Ostrom

The hotel is buzzing. Valet, security guards, television reporters — everyone is racing around the hotel lobby. Buses carrying the World Champion St. Louis Rams and Most Valuable Player Kurt Warner have just arrived.

Players, garbed in Hugo Boss and Armani suits, pass through a gauntlet of hands and cameras to waiting elevators that will transport them to their suites. It’s night and it’s dark, but a number of players are wearing sunglasses.

They more resemble movie stars than warriors of the gridiron.

And then there’s Warner, who isn’t interested in making a fashion statement. If Warner were a car, he’d be a ’67 Mustang with its original paint job. No full-length mink coat here. It’s what’s under the hood that matters.

"I’ve had times where I’ve had to struggle through some things, and the Lord used that to keep me humble," says Warner. "I think I have a great perspective on how the Lord used my whole situation and really what I’m supposed to be doing here. It’s not just about stepping on the football field. It’s about affecting people’s lives for Jesus, and that’s my platform."

Warner is the epitome of casual. He’s wearing a Christian T-shirt; in fact, it’ll be the same T-shirt he wears to breakfast tomorrow morning. A small Arkansas company that makes T-shirts with a Christian theme sent a box of free shirts to the Warner home a few months ago, and he wears them everywhere he goes.

How hot is Kurt Warner? After the Super Bowl win, Gillette wanted him to do a shaving commercial even though Warner doesn’t like to shave. Not one to violate his principles, Warner declined their offer.

Warner does endorse his own "Crunch Time" breakfast cereal, chocolate bar and fruit snacks. But he isn’t exactly depending on endorsement deals to pay the bills. The Rams rewarded him with a contract worth $46.5 million over the next seven years. Where has the money gone? "I really haven’t made any purchases," says Warner. "The big check that I wrote was obviously to the church, which was a definite blessing there." Months later the only major purchase on Warner’s mind is a home that is a little more secluded to preserve, in his words, "important family time."

At the hotel the night before the game a number of players venture out to "see the town." Warner is content to have dinner with a friend — quarterback Paul Justin who was cut by the Cowboys during pre-season. Although neither realizes it at the time, these two former teammates will be reunited before the season is over. Justin will rejoin the Rams after Warner goes down with a thumb injury during week eight’s loss to Kansas City.

The dinner with Paul Justin lasts an hour and a half. Meanwhile a number of autograph seekers have gathered outside. One fan, a Christian, gets his football signed. It reads, "Mike: God bless you, Kurt Warner."

"I’m not really into autographs and memorabilia and stuff like that," says the fan, "but I know it’ll start some good conversations in my home with friends who aren’t Christians. It’s a great conversation piece and naturally flows into a conversation about Jesus Christ and salvation."

Warner signs everything from trading cards to notebooks before teammates holding the elevator convince their quarterback it’s time to head upstairs. Like a 13 year old being told by his mother to stop playing sandlot ball and come in for supper, Warner politely shrugs to the few people who haven’t received an autograph and says, "I guess I gotta go. Sorry."

Warner’s autobiography, All Things Possible, tells how he accepted Christ and chronicles his dramatic rise from grocery store shelf-stocker to St. Louis bomber. "It encompasses my whole life, but more important, what I’m all about," says Warner. "It’s about how the Lord built me up to the point where I could handle last season. I could take on responsibility for the platform that He gave me and I could use that to touch a lot of lives."

Warner, though young in his walk — he’s only been a Christian for six years — has a wise-beyond-his-years perspective on his NFL career and his role in fulfilling the Great Commission.

"It’s about affecting people’s lives for Jesus. That’s why I’m here. The Lord put me here for those purposes. I know that I’m here to do the Lord’s work."

Mike Ostrom lives in The Colony, Texas.

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