(Photo: First Things First)
Former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner knows all about second chances. After a rocky start to his career, he went on to become a Super Bowl champion and two-time league MVP. Now, he's giving other people a second chance at their dream jobs in the new reality show, "The Moment."
The show, which premieres on USA Network on April 11, follows participants as they are each given the opportunity to pursue their dream career, whether it be race car driving or costume designing. After taking time to train and prepare, they are given the biggest job interview or audition of their lives.
Warner, the show's host, knows what it's like to see his own dreams put on hold. He was cut by the Green Bay Packers after training camp in 1994, and afterward he got a job stocking shelves at a grocery store for $5.50 per hour. He went on to play for the Arena Football League's Iowa Barnstormers, and only after he led them to two consecutive Arena Bowl appearances did he sign with an NFL team, the St. Louis Rams.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Warner spoke about pursuing goals, the influence of his faith on his NFL comeback and the ways he has used his success to help others.
CP: What is it like for you to be able to give a second chance to others whose dreams were delayed?
Warner: Well, I mean, I don't know if it gets much better, knowing what a second chance meant to my career, to my family, to where I'm at today, the opportunities that I'm presented with today. All of that came from somebody taking a chance on me and giving me a second chance.
So, to be able to host a reality show that gives other people a second chance, and inspires people at home to maybe take a second chance that they kind of put to the back of their mind or stopped even thinking about, I think is, it's an awesome opportunity for me. Because I just know what that can mean to a person.
I know what it's all about to really live in your passions and do what you feel you're called to do, where you're gifted, and I think a lot of people step away from that because of a variety of circumstances and feel like they can never get back to what they always hoped that they would be. And to be able to give people that opportunity, to chase that, to see if it's what they really want to do and hopefully, if it is, to inspire them to chase that whether it's through the show and the opportunity they get there or even after the show, figuring out ways to chase that in their daily life.
CP: This whole idea of second chances is interesting, because I know that you're a Christian guy and that's kind of a central theme of Christianity, the opportunity for second chances. What role did faith play in keeping you going prior to receiving your second chance?
Warner: Well, faith was huge. And, you know, you have the personal faith, in the fact that you believe God created you for something, that he gifted you a certain way, and you believe that you can maximize those gifts and do something great with them. So that was the first part of it, is just understanding that God had a plan for me even though it didn't always look like that.
And then, just like you said, the central theme of where we make mistakes, where we mess up, God forgives us and presents us with new opportunities in life. He was able to utilize that, where I found myself in certain circumstances or, having made mistakes in the past, saying, "Okay, God can turn this around for good," and I watched Him do that time and time again in my life.
So it was central to everything I did and the perspective that I had. I think that was as much as anything when, the first time around, when it didn't work out, my mindset was completely different than what it was the second time. My focus, what I was trying to accomplish with the platform and the dream, was all different.
The first time around it was solely focused on me and what I could do, what I could accomplish, what kind of personal accolades I could get. The second time around it was more about using that platform to impact people, and that was all focused in on my faith and what really drives the Christian faith.
CP: And what did that do to you as far as playing goes? Did it lift some weight off of your shoulders, or did that have any impact on the way you played?
Warner: I'm not sure it had an impact on the way that I played, but it had an impact on the person that I was. Not so much did I throw a better spiral or was I more accurate with the football, but how I handled different situations – you know, what my goals were, how I let certain things affect me, what my driving force was in different situations, would I allow it to frustrate me. Those kinds of things were completely different.
So when your focus is on different things and you're looking at highs and lows, breakthroughs and struggles, in different ways, I think it can have a different effect on how you attack them, how you get through them, whether you thrive in them or you struggle through them, those kinds of things. I just think my perspective was completely different, and thus it helped to shape who I was as a person, first and foremost, and then, as I had success on the football field, that just automatically carried over into what I wanted to accomplish that went way beyond the football field.
CP: Along the way, participants on "The Moment" are helped by experts in their respective fields, who serve as mentors. Who was your mentor, not only leading up to your second big opportunity but just throughout your career? Who was the mentor who offered you that guidance and that help?
Warner: It's a good question. It depends on which stage in my career you look at. My high school basketball coach was a big mentor to me in regards to showing me the importance of begin great at everything, and pushing myself not just to the level of my teammates, or to be the best on my team, but to be the best in all areas of my life. So that was a huge thing for me.
As I was kind of going through the struggles trying to make it to the NFL, there wasn't really necessarily a mentor. Very self-motivated, very fixated on the work that I had to do on the football field.
My mentors more came off the field. You know, people like my wife really kind of pushing me to a deeper understanding of the Christian faith and to the point where I really gave my life over to the Lord. I had some teammates on my arena team. I had a pastor in St. Louis. And those people, from a spiritual standpoint, is where I needed the most guidance. And those were the true mentors that I think helped me to become the person, and stand for what I did, and accomplish the things that I wanted to accomplish, because I believe on and off the field went hand in hand. The kind of person I was directly correlated to the kind of success I had on the football field, and that really started with my faith, my walk with God.
There was so much different after I met Brenda, who obviously, at the time, was my girlfriend but would become my wife, and they started pushing me toward that faith. And the direction of my life, focus of my life, perspective, changed completely, and as those things started to change, other things started to become more clear. Other things started to come together. And it was shortly after that, as God prepared me and used those mentors to kind of shape me, that I got my second chance in the NFL and was able to really take advantage of it.
CP: Reality shows – some, not all – have a reputation of being all entertainment value and no real value. And "The Moment" is kind of taking a different direction with it, so can you talk a little bit about that and why its important to have this kind of television?
Warner: Well I think you're right. I think too often with reality television we want to focus on conflict. We want to focus on, I think, making ourselves feel better by watching the train wreck that's in front of us. And I still believe … most people really want to find people that can be their heroes, or they want to find these inspirational stories that they can hang onto. But, unfortunately, there's not enough of them, so we make ourselves feel better by watching these other shows where we can walk away going, "Well, I'm not as bad as that person."
I think we need to have more television like this, that inspires us, that encourages us. That where we're at doesn't have to be where we end up, that we can still accomplish, we can still be more, we can still be everything that we've dreamed of being. And that's what I love so much about this show, is that it's real-life stories of people that are like me and you, that one day they're sitting on their couch wondering what life's going to look like, wondering if they're ever going to be able to chase their dream again or be what they've always wanted to be … Things that, I think, most people face at some point in time in their life, something that I faced, when I was going through the process. And then to see these people get that second chance.
And you're going to see struggles. You realize that it's not just a fluff television show where everything goes great and then they get the job at the end. It's a process, and it's an opportunity. And that's what I think life is all about. It's about creating an opportunity, getting an opportunity, and what do you do with it? Are you prepared? Are you ready? Do you have what it takes? That's really what it's all about, and I think most people would be satisfied with having that opportunity and figuring out, one way or another, do I have what it takes? Is it what I really want? Is it what makes me go? Do I have the drive? Those kinds of things.
But so many people are sitting at home because of whatever circumstances and go, well, I could have done that if … They have these excuses on why they didn't, and with that I think there's animosity there, there's bitterness that they never got the opportunity to see if they could accomplish that. And this show is giving nine people that chance and, hopefully, through the other endeavors with the show and hopefully through the show itself, it inspires people to go, "Hey, I can make an opportunity for me. I don't have to just sit back and then kind of live with what life threw at me … I can go and make another opportunity."
That's exactly what I did: kept plugging, kept knocking on doors, kept trying. And I think a lot of people will again use that with the show and say, "Well, if Kurt Warner knocked on my door, I would chase my dream again also." But my hope is that they realize not everybody's going to have that knock on the door, but that doesn't mean you can't create opportunities, you can't start pursuing your dreams, you can't start knocking on doors or finding ways to chase your dream again. And that's kind of the hope of the show, that it inspires people to push toward that second chance even though it won't look like the nine hopefuls on the show.
CP: You had mentioned earlier that whenever you had your second chance that you took it as an opportunity to use football as a platform, and even after your NFL career you've continued to use that platform through your First Things First Foundation and other things. Can you tell about the other projects you have going on, including the work that you're doing through the First Things First Foundation?
Warner: Well the biggest project that we're working on right now through our foundation is something called Treasure House, which is an assisted living home for adults with disabilities. We have a 23-year-old son who was injured when he was four-months-old and has dealt with different disabilities throughout his life. And then he graduated from high school and there was that process of going, okay, what's next for him? What does a full life look like? What is he passionate about, and can we present him with those opportunities to be able to live the way that we dream for all of our other kids?
And so this assisted living home is a means of giving these families and giving these individuals the opportunity to have that full life, to be around their peers, to be an integral part of the community, to have jobs – all of the different things that we desire as individuals, that we desire for our kids.
So we're in the process of building our first one in Arizona, and the hope is to expand around the country. We'd love to have one in every state. We'd have them in strategic locations where families don't have to send their kids – like right now our son lives in a home in St. Louis – so families don't have to send their kids two, three, four states away. That they can have them close to them. They can still have everything that they've dreamed of for their child, but they can also make sure they're a part of their life.
There's a huge need out there. We find parents all the time that are at that crossroads and wonder, what's next? What does a full life look like for my son? Is it going to be living at home and not being able to get out and be a part of the community, and not have that purpose that drives all of us? So that's our next endeavor, that's what we're kind of jumped in with both feet right now with that, and hope to have our first one done by the end of next year or in that time frame. And then hopefully we'll be able to take that, take that model, and expand it across the country.
CP: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Warner: Yeah, I think the biggest thing, we kind of touched on it, is just that the hope of the show isn't just caught up in the nine hopefuls, and that people don't just enjoy watching their stories and seeing the process that they go through. Hopefully, we can inspire people at home to truly chase their dream, to look for a second chance, to not just sit around and wait for someone to hand it to them but to go out and pursue it, whatever that means.
If you live at home, or if you're like an at home mom or an at home dad, and you're at home all day, maybe that's taking a night class online. Maybe that's taking some classes. Maybe that's pursuing it throughout the day at different times, if you carry a job. Finding a way to introduce your passion back into your life in hopes of maybe one day being able to pursue that full time and living the life that you've always dreamed of.