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Kurt Warner outside

Kurt Warner’s ‘American Underdog’ story demonstrates how to conquer our barriers

Gabrielle Schulenberg

Have you ever hit a wall in your life? Perhaps you dreamed of achieving a goal like retiring at a certain age or getting your dream job. But then something happened, and it all fell apart.

When life doesn’t go the way you hoped, it’s tempting to simply fall into a slump. You might give up and sorrowfully roll with the punches. Eventually, your dream might die in the rut where you left it.

But what if you didn’t give up?

NFL quarterback and Super Bowl champion, Kurt Warner was faced with the same temptation. His dream of becoming a professional football player for the National Football League was nearly smothered by the walls that arose in his life. But instead of letting those walls block his goals, he grew strong enough to scale them with the help of God.

In December 2021, American Underdog came out in theaters. The film tells the story of Kurt Warner, and how his determination, his wife, and his faith helped him to navigate the walls in his life. His story is sure to inspire many as we all embark on our own journey to climb walls in our lives.

The movie features infamous actors such as Zachary Levi (as Kurt Warner), Dennis Quaid (as NFL head coach, Dick Vermeil), Anna Paquin (as Brenda Warner), and Adam Baldwin (as Kurt’s college coach, Terry Allen). The movie has proven to be well-loved by viewers, grossing about $6 million within the opening weekend of the film. The story of American Underdog is undeniably an outstanding one.

Raised in Iowa, Kurt played football in both high school and college. He earned the Gateway Conference Player of the Year honor through his work on the University of Northern Iowa football team. After graduating, he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. His career was off to a fantastic start.

But then the walls rose.

During the 1994 NFL draft, Kurt was left hanging. NFL scouts didn’t select him, and the Green Bay Packers undrafted him from their training program. The disappointment was thick enough to cut with a knife. Kurt’s heart broke. It was tempting to drop the dream right then.

In the wake of his crushed dreams, Kurt worked at the local Hy-Vee in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He was deeply disappointed, but his resilience was shocking.

He met his wife, Brenda Warner, in the early 1990s, and she was determined to help him achieve his goals. Brenda was a former marine investigator who had two children from a previous marriage. Brenda and Kurt met line-dancing and soon after, Kurt met Brenda’s kids.

Brenda’s son, Zack, had a traumatic brain injury as a baby, which left him with visual impairments and other challenges. In the film, Zack is portrayed by Hayden Zaller who is also visually impaired. Kurt fell in love with the two children as if they were his own.

Kurt tells in his pro football Hall of Fame speech about how Brenda stood faithfully by his side through every trial saying:

“Many have shared in the victories, the great accomplishments, and the breakthroughs. But there’s only one who has logged as many miles and made as many sacrifices. There’s only one who was wounded by every criticism, felt every hit, suffered with every interception, and comforted me in every setback. Only one who has delt with all the good, the bad, and the unpredictable this adventure had to offer.”

Brenda’s faith in Christ undeniably encouraged his own, and they became strongest together.

When Brenda and Kurt were married in 1997, he adopted the two children. At around the same time, things began to change for Kurt.

Kurt had spent some time playing in an Arena Football league and NFL Europe. The confined space and unique experience of the arena league built him into a different type of player for the future. These experiences were vital in honing his skills and strengthening him so that he could climb over his barriers and eventually make it into the NFL.

In 1998, he was finally drafted into the NFL with the former St. Louis Rams. He was closer than ever to fully scaling the wall … but unfortunately, he was confined to the sidelines for most of the season.

Kurt knew that he couldn’t climb over the last part of the wall unless God helped him. Thankfully, God was determined to fight alongside Kurt. After Kurt’s teammate, Trent Green, sustained an injury during the preseason in 1999, Kurt got his chance on the NFL field.

Finally, the wall was behind him. Kurt was in the arena, and he was determined not to take it for granted. His arduous journey built him into a formidable opponent.

Kurt led the Rams as a quarterback into the Super Bowl XXXIV, where they eventually won against the Tennessee Titans. His team named him their Super Bowl MVP. In 2001, Kurt kept up his success and brought the team to the playoffs, even though they didn’t go any farther than that.

His second Super Bowl was in 2002, and the team once again chose Kurt as their NFL MVP. Although the team didn’t end up winning the Super Bowl, Kurt had proven his value. He was astounded and grateful for his second chance at the NFL.

His streak continued when he led the Arizona Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII in 2009. It was close, but the Cardinals lost to the Pittsburg Steelers. After making it to the playoffs for another year, he retired and became an analyst for the NFL.

In a tweet, Kurt states:

“I don’t regret any part of journey I’ve been on & now more than ever am grateful that God chose to use me & teach me the ways he did… but there are moments, like today w/ my family & last night with the BIG trade, where the old “What If…” question pops in my head! #HowBoutYou”

Through true perseverance and commitment, Kurt had battled his way to the top. Through his faith in God and with Brenda’s support, Kurt built a career that put him into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2017 where his final words in his Hall of Fame speech were memorably, “thank you, Jesus!”

Imagine if he had quit when faced with his walls. Kurt could’ve chosen the easy road, letting the goal of playing in the NFL die in the Hy-Vee while he stocked groceries.

Let Kurt Warner’s story inspire you today. You might have walls towering over your dreams right now. Perhaps you’re living in the shadow of those walls. What if you could find the courage to climb them?

Maybe God is calling you to think past the borders that enshroud your mind. Remember the countless stories of God’s might and trust Him. He can bring down your walls, like He did in Jericho, and like He did with Kurt Warner.