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One of the most unlikely NFL stars of the past (or any) decade has decided to retire. Kurt Warner, surrounded by his family, announced that he was leaving the NFL for a variety of reasons, and said it was what God was leading him to do.
When it comes to character and the behavior of professional athletes off of the field, the NFL has certainly not been exempt from the worst of what young guys with money may choose to do with their freedom. So when a good guy retires, it is always bittersweet.
On one hand, Warner’s retirement is a shame, because he’s accomplished that rare and nuanced road where he has stood strongly for his faith but has not become known as a preacher. He does far more than point to God after touchdowns, but not so much that people tune out. He’s been an exemplary witness, but not a demonstrative one.
On the other hand, his retirement is a blessing, when someone seems to really put their commitment to excellence above their pocketbook. Warner felt he was getting physically and mentally beyond the place where he could maintain his outstanding level of play, thus walking away from the second year of a $23 million contract. That is some big bucks, my friends. He must really know he’s supposed to retire. (See fan reaction here.)


If you’ve never heard his story, Kurt Warner’s was one of perseverance and what you’d either call good fortune or God-ordained events. After barely keeping his career alive by playing in the Arena Football League and in Europe, he made the St. Louis Rams as a back-up quarterback in the late ’90’s. When Trent Green, the starter, got hurt, Warner stepped in to lead what was called “The Greatest Show on Turf.” The Rams didn’t just win: they entertained. Not since Paul Westhead stepped in to lead the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers to a world championship (after being hired as an assistant coach) had anyone gone from back-up to rock star in such a short burst.
Warner went on to lead the Rams to their first of two Super Bowls, a Super Bowl victory, MVP awards in both the Super Bowl and the League’s season trophy, and he racked up lots and lots of yards. (See his lifetime stats here.) Recently, as an older guy by NFL standards, he fended off Heisman Trophy winner and top draft pick Matt Leinhart, he remained the Arizona Cardinals’ starter, took them to last year’s Super Bowl and came within seconds of winning it.
Kurt Warner retires as the top post-season passer of all time, and one of the more redemptive role models in professional sports. Unless he pulls a Brett Favre (the master of “un-retiring”), we’ve seen the last of him on the field as a player. But he has interest in broadcasting as well as some ministry ambitions, so we haven’t seen the last of him. And that is a blessing.
“There are times I’ve been walking around the last couple of days and I’ll suddenly think, ‘Did I really do that? Or was that a dream?’ ” he confessed to Michael Silver of Yahoo Sports at the Pro Bowl Sunday night. “But no, there’s been no second-guessing. Not at all.”

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