“He grew up in Iowa, where the first settlers were Eastern Europeans who raised oats, corn, and wheat in what would become the breadbasket of America. Soon followed the English and the Irish, the Scots and the Scandinavians, who put down roots of their own and shared the dawn of their new lives with those who had come before. As they evolved into fiercely proud Americans, all imbued the heartland with traits of the Old Country: hard work, respect, traditions, and church bells on Sunday. They waved at each other through their windshields and from the swings and chairs on their front porches. ‘People in Iowa are terrific,’ Kurt Warner says. ‘Some places you can be walking down the street, say hello to someone, they don’t answer you. In Iowa you can start a conversation by saying hello.'”
2. Kurt Warner’s childhood was a difficult one; growing up on the streets of New York City, he found himself having few friends, as his friendly nature did not mesh well with the cold, alienating nature of the big city. Whenever he attempted to talk to people, they would brush him off, as if he were nothing. This made him feel incredibly sad and despondent; he did not feel as if he had any allies throughout his childhood.
His parents were a similar story; moving from Iowa to New York City, they found it difficult to make time for him in the hustle and bustle of city life, and so he was not able to successfully nurture a positive relationship with them. Instead, Kurt found himself playing football by himself in his backyard. Imagining all of his own football heroes from the TV playing with him, he found a great interest in the game, deciding to hone his skills. Signing up for the football team in high school, he quickly found himself shooting to the top of the rankings. He would score touchdowns left and right for his team, and started to gain the attention of agents. However, he would choose to wait until college to really pursue the dream of becoming a star quarterback.
In the meantime, he simply wanted to belong in the city. He simply thought that everyone was being quite unfair to him; this would not have happened if he had grown up in the Midwest like his parents did, where everyone was friendlier. However, he simply learned to get along without friends, working on his own and choosing to dedicate himself to his studies. Instead of following God like his parents did, he took a more agnostic approach, trusting his own instincts and abilities instead of a higher power for his football performance, not to mention his life choices. Luckily, this intuition would pay off, as he would become drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 1994 NFL Draft. This would launch a decades-long career that would change his life forever, though he was more cynical about it than most would be, given his hard city upbringing.
3. Gary and Marc, I think your book about Kurt Warner is essentially quite good; it is nice and simple, with a very straightforward look at the man and his history. It is very nice to see where he came from, and exactly how he approached his career as a football player. The Christian angle is quite interesting; I appreciated seeing how Kurt’s religion played heavily into his own lifestyle and playing.
If I were to make the plot somewhat different (as much as you can do with a real life figure) I would have delayed Kurt’s big break even further; instead of getting picked up by a college team in 1995, I would have him spend 4 or 5 years at that grocery story in Iowa, working minimum wage, and forgetting about his dreams. Then, maybe a family tragedy would make him reshift his priorities, and make him remember what he loved doing. This would add extra pathos to the story, and he would have a much darker low point than simply ‘works at a grocery store for awhile.’ While I realize that this aspect of his character is interesting, because it is mundane for such a larger than life figure, it does not provide a real tragic element to the character that is sorely needed. Making him work harder for it would make his victories in the football business seem a lot more earned, and that would sell the audience a lot more on his struggles. There would be a much greater transition from ‘lost his dreams and settles into small town life’ to ‘hitting the big time and great fame and fortune’.
My favorite part of the book has to be the aspect of his Christian conversion, and his relationship with his wife Brenda. Making such a simple character aspect of a man and his faith is interesting in light of the industry in which he works. The sports entertainment industry is filled with cynicism, business related talk, drugs, alcohol, sex and dogfighting. Having a strictly Christian, conservative and simple football player become such a large figure in it makes an interesting contrast to the normal depravity of football culture. I really like how Kurt’s simple upbringing and childhood groomed into a much more personable, sociable and likable person in the beginning, and he had to struggle to maintain that friendliness and sociability into the hard world of professional football.
4. Dear Kurt,
How are you doing, my old friend? By now, you’ve likely moved back home to Cedar Falls, while I’m still off at college. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it down there; you know I would if I could. I heard about you trying to go to the Green Bay Packers training camp and giving that a go – I always knew you would make it that far! However, I know you moved back home without a spot, which has got to be tearing you up inside. I know how you feel man, I have experienced my fair share of trials and tribulations myself. It can really be rough when you don’t make it the first time out; I felt the same way when I tried to become a writer. You have all of this hope and energy behind you, and it gets cut away the first time someone said no. I’m sure it felt the same way when Mariucci, the quarterback coach, said that word to you.
However, I think you made the right choice in moving home, at least for now. Going back to Cedar Falls and keeping life simple for a bit will really do you good. Take a job at that Hy-Vee we always used to go to – that might be fun! You’ll earn a decent wage and learn the value of responsibility, not that you didn’t have it before. It will keep you busy at any rate; it will also give you a lot of time to look inward at what you are, who you might be, and what you want to do with your life. Maybe you go back to football when you are ready, maybe not. Either way, I will be here to support you.
Maybe when I get back, we can toss the ball around and see how much you like it. I am sure your skills have improved greatly in the intervening years; I’d like to see how far that throw can go. I remember you being an absolute star back at Regis High School, and I would always attend your games. All I can really say to you is to hang in there, Kurt; I’m your friend and I will always stand behind you. At the same time, do not give up on your dreams. I’m sure God will guide you to the best place you need to be, and your fortunes will change very soon.
All the best,
Ronberg, Gary, and Marc Serota. Heart and Soul: The Kurt Warner Story. Triumph Books,