Kurt Warner's Comeback

It's widely believed that Kurt Warner's performance this season will help secure him a place in the NFL Hall of Fame. Not bad for a guy who has come back from the trash heap more times than Mariah Carey.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Kurt Warner started his first NFL game at the late age, 28. He went to two Super Bowls by the time he was 30. And for the next half dozen years he struggled with injuries, and teams brought him in to back up their rising stars. Well, now, starting for the Arizona Cardinals, he is using that high profile to spread the word of his faith. Warner is one of the most outspoken players in sports on the subject of religion. That wins him praise, but it also causes discomfort for some, as NPR's Mike Pesca reports from Tampa.

MIKE PESCA: If Kurt Warner were a crooner he'd be Tony Bennett. Hf he were director, he'd be Quentin Tarantino, if he were a mortgage he'd be the 30-year fix rate. The pattern with all is the same. Early success followed by a down period but resurgence in the end. Ask Kurt Warner to assess his life's journey and the answer always comes back to one thing.

Mr. KURT WARNER (NFL Player, Arizona Cardinals): I'm in a position to change the world around me because the platform that I've been given. I realized that a long time ago, that God put me in this place for particular reason and I'm going to try to live up to what God's called me to.

PESCA: Warner does not actually answer every question by evoking the Almighty, though sometimes it seems that way because when he's on the biggest stage having just won a big game, a God reference is always at the ready. His devout Christianity leads him to evangelize and also led him to a nomination as NFL Man of the Year announced earlier today. At that press conference, Warner's wife and mother of their seven children, Brenda, was asked if sometimes people who don't know her husband find his faith off-putting.

Ms. BRENDA WARNER (Wife of Kurt Warner): He is a man that wears his faith on his sleeve, he proclaims it proudly and, you know, you'd have to ask his teammates, but from what I've heard, they're pretty inspired by this man, and we all should be because she's a good man.

PESCA: Brenda added a thought that you rarely hear a woman proclaim - I married up, she said. Warner's teammates have publicly credited their quarterback for being a good leader and an inspiration. Their coach talks about his generosity. But earlier this year, ESPN reported that few of Warner's teammates showed up when he invited the team to a pool party with their families. Marshall Faulk, who played alongside Warner on the Super Bowl champion Rams explains his old teammate.

Mr. MARSHALL FAULK (NFL Player, St. Louis Rams; Warner's Former Teammate): He's selfless. And you get around and then sometimes you just feel bad, you know, and guys understand him like, OK, of course, he's a very religious guy. You know, maybe I'm not ready to like walk in this guy's house and pray over my dinner or attend Bible study. But that's not Kurt.

PESCA: On the field, Warner has most of the attributes of a great quarterback including an incredibly accurate arm and the ability to read defenses. Warner has said that all his physical tools are by God's will. A locker room skeptic might appreciate the gifts without worrying who put them there. Doug Williams, like Warner, a former a Super Bowl MVP, says that Warner's faith shouldn't matter to his team. What should matter is that the team can draw inspiration from Warner.

Mr. DOUG WILLIAMS (MVP and Former Super Bowl Player): When they see their quarterback get knockdown and knocked around but still get up and face all the defenses and everything and get the job done, he gains respect right there.

PESCA: Boomer Esiason, another former NFL Quarterback calls Warner a leader and says his beliefs are irrelevant.

Mr. BOOMER ESIASON (Former NFL Quarterback): Well, it all depends on how you, you know, perceive the religion angle. I always say to each their own and I'd much rather have a guy that's going to be preaching religion as oppose a guy who's going to be shooting himself in the leg.

PESCA: Clerics and coaches would both agree. Mike Pesca, NPR News Tampa, Florida.

SIEGEL: You're listening to All Things Considered from NPR News.

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