Written by Joe Kleinsasser Tuesday, 17 February 2009 14:20
Depending on your emotional state, the following story will either be inspiring and too good to be true, or it may affect your gag reflex. Hey, not everyone marches to the same drummer.
One of the better-known love stories in professional sports involves Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and his wife, Brenda.
Warner married a woman who had two children from a previous marriage, one a special-needs child. The oft-told version of the story has some inaccuracies, but the real story is inspirational.
We’ll attempt to set the record straight with the help of Snopes.com, a Web site that tries to sort fact from myth on rumors and urban legends that circulate on the Web.
According to the Web site, Kurt and Brenda did not meet while both were working in a grocery store, although Kurt did find employment in a grocery store. He stocked shelves at a Hy-Vee in Cedar Falls for $5.50 an hour.
Kurt and Brenda met in 1992 at a country bar while he was Northern Iowa’s starting quarterback. He was cut by the Green Bay Packers in 1994, so he went to work in a grocery store.
Kurt knew Brenda had two children, including a disabled son, Zachary, born in 1989. According to Snopes.com, “He was a perfectly healthy infant, not a Down Syndrome child. When he was four months old, his father dropped him, and in the blink of an eye, this previously healthy baby was suddenly clinging to life, his grip slipping fast. He suffered severe brain damage, and both of his retinas were ruptured. At the time, few thought Zachary would live, and fewer still held out any hope he would ever see, sit up, read, walk or talk.”
The injury was apparently more than Zachary's birth dad could bear and led to the breakup of his marriage to Brenda. He left her when she was eight months pregnant with Jesse.
“Zachary’s recovery has been long and arduous, but he now walks and talks. Though still legally blind, he can make out colors and shapes. No longer strictly a special-needs student, he is integrated for half-days in a regular high school classroom.”
After a lengthy courtship that started in 1992, Kurt and Brenda were married in 1997. Kurt adopted both children and the couple has since added five more children. The following anecdote tells it all concerning Zachary’s relationship with his adoptive father. After a Rams victory in the 2000 NFC championship game, 10-year-old Zachary presented Kurt with a homemade card that read, “You’re as good a dad as you are a quarterback!”
And if that isn’t enough, according to a New York Times article, playing “The Restaurant Game” before an away game is something Kurt Warner and his family enjoy, a fringe benefit of being a well-paid football player.
In this game, Warner and his wife sit back and watch as one or more of their children scan the dining area. Once they choose a table, Warner quietly adds that dinner tab to his own. The targeted family receives a free meal without knowing the identity of their benefactor.
Kurt and Brenda do it as a playful way to instill in their children the joy of giving.
“We want our kids to grow up knowing that because of football we are so blessed,” said Warner. “We never want them to lose sight of what it’s really about. Our circumstances are not the most important thing. It's what we do with those circumstances.”
Warner and his wife, Brenda, launched the First Things First Foundation in 2001 to promote Christian values and reach out to those less fortunate. The foundation sponsors Disney World trips for ill kids, funds scholarships and builds recreation centers in children’s hospitals, always promoting Warner’s life theme: “Faith and family come first.”
Warner has been on the winning and losing side of a lot of football games. But in the game of life, he’s definitely a winner.