Aug 19

Say Yes-Sports Talk With Anthony Bonelli And Dan Valleau And More

The word yes is a simple word, a word that is easy to spell and say, but sometimes convincing someone to Say Yes can be very challenging. Quarterback Kurt Warner, who was recently enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2017 in Canton Ohio, understands how challenging it can be to convince someone to utter this simple, but life-changing word.

When playing quarterback, a player must not only call plays and distribute the ball to his teammates, but he must also possess leadership qualities. Those qualities are not developed just because a player says he must have them, they are developed throughout a player’s life, or as Warner eloquently said in his Hall of Fame Speech, “For those of you that have witnessed my career from the outside, you will undoubtedly use the milestones – Super Bowls, MVP’s, and of course, tonight – as the defining moments of my career. But if there’s one thing that this process has revealed, it’s that those pinnacle accomplishments were simply byproducts of the moments that made the foundation of the man that stands here before you this evening.”

Ironically, playing quarterback was not Warner’s first choice. During Warner’s first high school football practice, his coach, Jim Padlock, was separating every player by position, when he realized that the quarterback position was vacant. He decided to line everyone up and have a throwing contest, which meant whoever threw the ball the farthest would become the new Starting Quarterback for Regis High School. Much to Warner’s dismay, he won the throwing competition. Although reluctantly, and maybe not verbally, this was one of the first times that Warner would have to Say Yes. He did not realize this was the beginning of the path to Hall of Fame success.

The Burlington Iowa native decided to continue his education and football career at the University of Northern Iowa. Despite having the comfort of being close to home, one of the newest members of the University of Northern Iowa Panthers still faced adversity. Every athlete wants to feel like they are a major contributor to their team’s success. Although every individual on a team is an integral part of their team’s success, when a player is not participating in games, it is hard to have that feeling. That is the feeling that Warner had to try and remind himself of, the feeling that he was still part of the team even though he sat on the bench for four consecutive years.

Warner contemplated transferring or just quitting altogether, but after a conversation with his mother, Sue Warner, who told her son to be grateful for the opportunity even if it didn’t look the way he wanted it to look. As one of the people Warner looks up to the most, Sue Warner continued to impart her wisdom on her son by saying, “Never stop working or preparing because God has a plan and you need to be ready when he shows it to you.” The conversation concluded with Sue Warner telling her son that he was not a quitter, and that they would get through this together. Warner decided against quitting and stayed with the team. That simple, life-changing word referenced earlier can also be a source of motivation, and give a person strength and the will to not give up.

Think of Warner’s professional football career as if he were a storm chaser, a person who follows the path of a weather event, such as a Tornado, in the hopes of getting a glimpse of a funnel cloud, or simply for the thrill of doing it. Warner’s professional football career started with him being an undrafted free agent. He was then signed and later released by the Green Bay Packers in 1994. It then included stints with NFL Europe’s Amsterdam Admirals, his home state Arena Football League team the Iowa Barnstormers, and even as a Grocery Store Clerk at Hy-Vee. As Warner put it, “The road to our dreams often times has detours. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do while you’re waiting to do what you were born to do. Thus my infamous stint at the grocery store.”

There are some things in life people cannot control, like when you are on your honeymoon and you get bitten on your throwing elbow by an unknown creature. The bite causes your elbow to swell shortly before a scheduled tryout with the Chicago Bears. You are forced to cancel the tryout because of the mysterious bite. Yes, that is yet another chapter in Warner’s Hall of Fame success story.

Some people think that the number 13 is unlucky, but in Warner’s case, that unlucky number was the right number. In 1997, just as Warner was about to give up on his football career, he received a call from his former Amsterdam Admirals Head Coach, Al Luginbill, saying that the St. Louis Rams would like him to come for a tryout. The previous 12 phone calls between NFL teams and Luginbill concluded with another simple, but powerful word: No.

The day arrived, Warner was getting a second chance at an NFL career. Warner, by his own admission, had the worst workout of his life, saying, “I called Brenda,” his wife, “and told her I blew it. I blew my last chance at the NFL.” Much to Warner’s surprise, a few days later he received a call from the Rams offering him a contract. Jokingly Warner said, “To this day, I think the signing must have just been a favor to Al, but all the same to me. One man’s junk, is another man’s treasure.”

During training camp, teams must cut players that they do not think can help them win. It was the night before final cut day in 1998, the Rams coaching staff had a tough decision to make, who would be their third-string quarterback? The members of the coaching staff took a vote, but this did not answer the question because the vote was even. The final decision would be made by Head Coach Dick Vermeil. The candidate who would fill that position remembers exactly how he received the thrilling news, saying, “I’ll never forget the moment I made the team. I was wandering the halls at Rams Park – the same halls from which I’d called Brenda informing her I blew my tryout – when, who do I run into? Coach Vermeil. Not very often do you find out your football future in the hallway of the facility, but after everything else I’d been through, why should this surprise me? It was there that I found out the first step of my dream had been realized.”

Still in shock, Warner continued, “But, ‘you made the team,’ was not the statement that made the greatest impression. It was the one that followed. Coach V looked at me in the eye and said, ‘the reason why you made this team is I feel there is something special about you. Something different. And I couldn’t let you go without seeing if it was true.’” Finally, the quarterback who had been longing to hear the word yes, heard it twice from the same team.

It was 1999, quarterback Trent Green was set to become the Starting Quarterback for the Rams. In a preseason game against the San Diego Chargers, near the end of the First Half, Green was hit from behind by Chargers safety Rodney Harrison. Green tore several ligaments in his knee. Everyone associated with the Rams was devastated, but there was Warner, ready to do something improbable. Warner would become the leader of what is now one of the most well-known offenses in NFL history, “The Greatest Show on Turf.”

The Rams would hoist the Lombardi Trophy in 1999, winning one of the most memorable games in Super Bowl history by defeating the Tennessee Titans. The Titans tied the game at 16 with an Al Del Greco 43- yard field goal with 2:12 remaining in the game. The Rams started their next drive on the Titans’ 27- yard line. Warner then threw a 73- yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Isaac Bruce: the Rams took a 23-16 lead with 1:38 left. On their final drive, the Titans moved the ball down to the Rams’ 10- yard line with six seconds left. Quarterback Steve McNair threw a short pass to wide receiver Kevin Dyson. Dyson caught the ball at the 3, his effort to try and score the game-tying touchdown fell one-yard short however, when he was tackled by Rams linebacker Mike Jones. Warner would raise the Super Bowl MVP trophy as well as the Lombardi Trophy.

Warner was also named the regular season’s most valuable player in 1999. In 2014, Vermeil talking about the quarterback he saw something special in, told the Kansas City Star, “How many quarterbacks in the history of the NFL (became) the most valuable player in the league with only 16 game snaps in his career? Tell me. Nobody. It has never been done before, and will never be done again.”

The Rams played in the NFL’s biggest game once again in 2001. This time, the Lombardi Trophy would be hoisted by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. The Rams participated in an unforgettable Super Bowl, losing to the Patriots 20-17 on a 48- yard field goal by future Hall of Fame place kicker Adam Vinatieri as time expired.

In 2005, Warner was trying to revitalize his football career after being released by the Rams and not being re-signed after one year with the New York Giants. Once again, Warner was told yes, this time by the Arizona Cardinals. In 2007, Ken Whisenhunt was named the new Head Coach of the Cardinals. Warner would have to prove himself again, he was competing for the starting job with the Cardinals 2006 first-round draft pick and Heisman Trophy Winner Matt Leinart.

Warner was named the starter during training camp in 2008. He helped the Cardinals soar to their first Super Bowl in franchise history. For the third time in his career, the 11-year veteran was a part of an amazing Super Bowl. The Cardinals were not able to complete their historic season with their first Lombardi Trophy. The Cardinals lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII 27-23 when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw the game-winning 9- yard touchdown pass to wide receiver, and Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes with 0:35 left in the Fourth Quarter. This came after Warner threw a 64- yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to take a 23-20 lead with 2:37 remaining.

The 310th member enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame understands the word yes means the most to his seven children. When his children ask, “Dad, would you play football or video games with me?” His answer is a resounding yes.

As he said, “Moments matter. They leave their impression upon us. They shape how we live our lives, and they impact who we become. They also offer something of possibly more value: The opportunity to leave a lasting mark on the world around us.” Warner left a lasting mark on every place that his football career led him.

Warner is a man that is undoubtedly committed to his faith. He concluded his Hall of Fame Speech by saying yes to the most important figure in his life, saying, “Now, love it or hate it, the opening scene captured the sports world, and the words became the heart of my story. The rest, as they say, is history. Bringing us to this: The famous last words, and the only place this extraordinary journey can end. His final moment was for me. Mine is for him. Thank you Jesus!” Some might interpret his last statement as Warner saying, “YES, I believe.”

Everyone must overcome the feeling of being rejected at some point in their life. Warner overcame that terrible feeling by not letting that feeling deter him from chasing his lifelong dream. His actions showed that he was determined to hear that simple, but life-changing word. There is a lesson to be learned from Warner’s story, that is do not let the fact that someone said no, stop you from chasing your dream, rather make someone else Say Yes.