2009 Walter Payton Man of the Year

I have great admiration for Kurt Warner. He has The Right Stuff. He doesn’t strut, doesn’t brag, doesn’t badmouth people. Well, far as I know anyway. The impression I’ve gotten over the last 12 years is that this is a Man, a Man who talks the talk AND walks the walk. Good Men are hard to find in the halls of the National Football League. I never got the impression that Kurt Warner was anything other than what we saw. 2009 Walter Payton Award for Man of the Year? How wonderful is that, when the sports/entertainment world is so full of phony, plastic loudmouths.

Kurt Warner led the Rams to a Super Bowl in a year that was so important in my life. We watched the game on a giant-screen tv that belonged to one of the members of a certain 12-Step program I had recently joined, after hauling it up the stairs of the building and putting on a spread fit for kings. Except for the year I held my new daughter in my arms while the Bears trounced the Patriots, it was the most enjoyable time I ever had watching the greatest spectacle in football.

When Warner moved to Arizona, I was sorry only because I always liked St. Louis – and that’s where I’d always known the Cardinals to be! Having his bio list him as a Ram – which was L.A. in MY memory banks, home of some of my favorite childhood football players – and separately as a Cardinal – which team belongs in St. Louis, dontchaknow – still makes me smile today. Change is tough! Takes some getting used to!

“When Kurt Warner reached the podium to announce his retirement Friday, he brandished a simple black Bible to remind everyone who had the final say.”

I’m sorry to see Kurt Warner retire for purely selfish reasons. He and his family are a shining example of what is possible when love and commitment and God-given talents guide a person and a family to higher purpose. I also feel bad for the team, as he was, arguably, the most important cog in the machine.

“That’s a guy you can never replace,” Pro Bowl safety Antrel Rolle said. “We would not have been where we were the last two years without Kurt Warner and I’m still having a hard time imagining us without him.”

Warner won two MVPs with the St. Louis Rams before coming to the Cardinals. He also led the Rams to two Super Bowls, winning one. That means he has played in three, losing two. Not bad for a player who wasn’t drafted.

It is a Hall of Fame résumé for a Hall of Fame person. This is the kind of man Warner is: I once had a scheduled meeting with him in Arizona, but my flight was delayed and I was late. When I landed, I had two messages on my phone from Warner checking on me to see what was up.

Most players simply blow it off and move on. Warner actually cared.

One summer, I bumped into him at a dolphins swim in Orlando. I saw him before he saw me and got the chance to see him interact with his handicapped son, who he adopted. The care and love was evident from across the lagoon.

The man has a big heart. That is not an act either. He is every bit as real as he comes across.

Via con Dios, Warner Family. You will be missed by many, but I know you’re not giving up your commitments to improving what you can, when you can. Via con Dios…and thank you.

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