Former Super Bowl MVP Explains Winning in Defeat

Kurt Warner
Kurt Warner (CBN)

Kurt Warner was the quarterback of the Super Bowl 34 Champion, St. Louis Rams.

The 1999 Rams were the NFL's highest scoring offense, nicknamed "the greatest show on turf." The team's quick-strike passing game was led by Warner's sudden rise from undrafted backup — to the league's celebrated newcomer. Kurt explains, "That kind of success, that early, was I think the surprise to me. Just how quickly it came in my first season in the NFL, but here I am at 28 and it was like God sped up the whole career."

His impact was immediate, turning a last-place team into a division winner and leading the Rams to their first playoff appearance in St. Louis as the NFC's top-seeded team. His ascent launched him to stardom and led him to the first of three Super Bowls.

So how difficult is it to reach that game? Kurt emphasizes: "It's so difficult. So many things have to go in your favor. It's such a special thing when you put it all together. The chemistry that we had in the locker room with one another, the unselfishness amongst players."

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It led to Super Bowl 34 — and a matchup against the Tennessee Titans — two 13 and 3 teams — contending in one of the most dramatic 4th quarter finishes ever. A game Kurt savored from the start saying, "Running out of the tunnel, being announced at that Super Bowl, and seeing the flashes go off, was really the first moment for it to really sink in what had happened that year. It was just about the journey that God had taken me on."

But the journey was just beginning after taking a storybook turn when the Titans kicked a game-tying field goal. Kurt recalls, "I just remember talking to Coach Vermeil on the sideline and he looked at me and just said, 'you know, this is how you write it. You know, this is what you want. Two minutes to go, quarterback, ball in your hands, lead your team down to win a Super Bowl.'"

Kurt did, on the Rams first play, a 73-yard pass to Isaac Bruce, saying, "It was called trip's right, ace right, 999, F-Seam, H Balloon. Everybody's running deep. I left it a little bit behind Isaac. And he adjusts to it and makes the catch. From there I was laying on the ground. And listened to the crowd go crazy. Now we're ahead with a chance to win it." 

Kurt watched from the sideline as the Titans took their final drive down the field against the Rams defense. Kurt acknowledges, "That's always the hardest thing. We always want to have it in our control. But the hardest part about football is it's a team sport, in that you can't do it by yourself. Everybody will remember the reach by Dyson for the end zone, a one-yard difference between winning and losing. Those are the games that ultimately will be remembered."

The goal-line tackle preserved the Rams win. Kurt was named the game's Most Valuable Player — to go along with his MVP season. Just two years later, the Rams lost to the Patriots in Super Bowl 36. Is there a consolation in defeat?" Kurt answers, "It's not all about winning. You can win in losing. Success isn't defined by whether you have more points than the other guy. That's not how God defines it. It's defined by the journey; it's defined by where you find yourself and how far you've traveled and who you've become along the way."

Along the way, Kurt became one of only three NFL quarterbacks to start for two different Super Bowl teams. Resurrecting his career at 37 with the 2008 Arizona Cardinals who lost to the Steelers in the game's final 35 seconds, Kurt earned a beloved place in Phoenix. Kurt says, "You know, I was done, my career was over, he can't play anymore. Arizona will never win! We'll never go to a Super Bowl! It's just not going to happen. And we found ourselves in a place where nobody saw themselves. When we were able to take that journey here, a community came together around a football team."

The prolific quarterback still holds three Super Bowl passing records and hits the mark on defining his place among wins and losses. Kurt says "What happened on the cross ultimately defines Jesus and defines all of us. And what many saw as a loss, was our greatest win. He won. And that speaks to our everyday lives. But it also speaks to our Savior. That's what He created us for, was for relationship. And without that, what, at the end of the day, do we really have?

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