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Kurt and Brenda Warner: Putting First Things First

CBN.com Former Arizona Cardinals Quarterback Kurt Warner is regarded as one of the best to ever play the game. He’s been to three Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl XLIII with the St. Louis Rams. Statistically, the four-time Pro Bowler is the second most accurate QB in the history of the NFL. In the 2008 season he led the Cardinals to their very first Super Bowl appearance. But that’s just one side of Kurt’s story. The other side began over 20 years ago when he met his wife Brenda. He was a struggling quarterback, and she was a single mom with two kids.

“One of the first times I’d ever gone to the bar, I wasn’t much into it,” he tells The 700 Club. “My roommates pulled me out. I noticed her from across the room, dancing up a storm out there.”

The two hit it off, and at the end of the night, Kurt tried to kiss her. Though Brenda was interested in him, she felt she needed to tell him her situation. 

“He leaned over to kiss me, and I thought seriously, ‘I’m not playing a game. I’m 25, divorced, mother of two. If I never see you again, I totally understand.’”

The next day Kurt paid her a visit. He was met at the door by her two-year-old son Zack.   

“I went over there to see her, but the whole encounter was about her kids,” Kurt says. Zack warmed up to Kurt almost immediately, and it didn’t seem to matter to Kurt that Zack was blind. That made quite an impression on Brenda who was watching them with her infant daughter Jesse in her arms. 

“There are things that are deal breakers, and there are things that are deal makers. Those are kind of deal makers where Zachary took his hand being blind. He didn’t know who Kurt was walking in, but he just knew it was somebody new. I thought this is something different.”

Kurt's and Brenda’s relationship grew. But Kurt’s football career wasn’t going well. He tried out with the Green Bay Packers, but going against the likes of Brett Favre and Trent Dilfer didn’t help. He was cut before the season even started. Now with no job and no money, he moved into Brenda’s parents' basement and got a job that only paid him $5.50 an hour.   

“I took the infamous job of working nights at a grocery store,” he recalls. “So much of life is about pride. Here I am living in her parents’ basement without a job, and I’m thinking, ‘This isn’t me. This isn’t what I do. I don’t want to be taking from everybody else and not giving anything.’”

Kurt and Brenda had a great relationship, but there were some things they didn’t see eye to eye on -- especially when it came to having a relationship with God.  

Brenda says, “He would tell me some detail, and I’d say, ‘Well, show me that in the Bible. If you think that’s the core of your spiritual belief, show me.’ So we would honestly argue about Jesus or we would decide to make out that night. It was one or the other. That was our dating process.”

Kurt says, “I think I just believed in the story. I understood that Jesus died on the cross. He was kind of like my spare tire. Up to that point I was driving. I was in control, and if I ever needed Him, I could jump back, grab my spare tire, and He could help me out in whatever trying time that was.”

They grew even closer, and Kurt felt the pressure to make enough money to marry and have a family. So in 1995, he joined the Arena Football League with the Iowa Barnstormers. When he did, he got more than he bargained for when his teammates invited him to a Bible study.

 “I started to realize I really had no idea why I believed what I believed,” Kurt says. “It was in that process where, as you open the Bible and you read the scriptures, it’s obvious that it’s all about Jesus, what He did on the cross and giving your life to Him. So in the process of me trying to prove everybody around me wrong, I ultimately prove them all right.”

Kurt realized he needed to make a change. Then, Brenda had received news that her parents were killed when a tornado hit their town in Arkansas. 

“I was hurting so much,” Brenda says. “He was there to just listen to me, not judge me and also be there for my kids.”

“I wasn’t playing well on the football field,” Kurt says. “Her parents were killed. It was right around that time where I’d came to the realization that I needed to commit my life to Jesus.”

During their grief, Kurt gave his life to the Lord. When he did, things began to change. He and Brenda married. After leading the Barnstormers to two consecutive Arena Bowl appearances, he was offered a chance to play in the NFL Europe League for the Amsterdam Admirals. Then in 1998, Kurt’s dream to play in the NFL was realized when he signed with the St. Louis Rams.

“I no longer was looking at me, and I began looking at everybody around me and specifically looking at what God wanted for me. That was a complete change for me. I realized that it wasn’t about me. That if it works in the NFL, it’s because God wants me there. It’s for me to do something for Him.”

Kurt spent six seasons with the Rams. After a season with the New York Giants, he moved on the Arizona Cardinals where he’s still making his mark as one of the game’s best. But that pales to his role as husband and father of seven. He and Brenda have written book about their life together entitled First Things First with the underlining message of staying focused on God. 

“I want people to see that when you build a foundation, then when the tough times come, that foundation still stands,” says Brenda. “Just like our marriage. We knew what we believed before the NFL gave us millions of dollars. So when the millions of dollars come, that’s not who defines us.”

Kurt concurs, “They see Kurt and they know his story. A huge part of this book is that it’s not perfect. She’s gone through struggles. I’ve gone through struggles. We still battle together. We struggle raising kids, but God’s with us. God’s leading us.  God’s going to work it together no matter where we screw up. I think back to years when I tried to do it by myself, and I think about my life now. I think about marriage with seven kids, and there is no way I could figure this out and be successful by myself. It’s all about Jesus, and that’s why we are what we are.” 

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