In 1994, a young man named Kurtis was working the night shift at a Hy-Vee supermarket in Cedar Falls, Iowa. This was not his idea of life-fulfillment. More than anything, he wanted to pay professional football. But nobody would give him a fighting chance. So here he was: stocking shelves, earning minimum wage of $5.50 an hour, with every reason in the world to be depressed.
But as Kurtis hauled another crate of Pampers out of the stock room, he wasn't feeling sorry for himself. He was thinking more about his wife, Brenda. She'd had a tough time ever since her son Zachary was born five years earlier. When he was four months old, his father dropped him, leaving Zachary with severe brain damage and other debilitating injuries. To make matters worse, Zachary's father could not to come to terms with the incident and he deserted Brenda -- at that point eight months pregnant with their second child -- leaving her to care for Zachary alone.
And that's when Kurtis met Brenda, a single mom, struggling to put herself through school and subsisting on food stamps. Kurtis bought her roses and asked for a date. That Saturday night he arrived at her door, only to have her tell him that she was unable to go with him. The babysitter had called and canceled. To which Kurtis replied, "Then let's take the kids with us."
"I still don't understand why the kids can't come with us."
Brenda tried to explain that taking the children was not an option, but Kurtis persisted. Finally Brenda brought him inside to meet Zachary -- infirmed and in a wheelchair. Kurtis took one look and said, "I still don't understand why the kids can't come with us?" Brenda was amazed. Most men would run away from such a situation -- just like her first husband did.
That evening Kurtis and Brenda loaded up the kids, went to dinner and the movies. When her son needed anything, Kurtis would take care of him. When he needed to use the rest room, he picked him up out of his chair and took him. The kids loved Kurtis. At the end of the evening, Brenda knew this was the man she was going to marry and spend the rest of her life with.
Kurtis stepped in, took charge, and built with her a family that now totals seven children.
Most Valuable Dad
So what happened to Kurtis the stock boy? He never gave up on his dream of becoming a professional football player.
In 1994, he tried out for the Green Bay Packers at training camp, but didn't make the cut. The next season he settled for a job with the Iowa Barnstormers in the lowly Arena Football League. He tried everything possible to play in the NFL, but could not get a break. In 1997 he had a tryout scheduled with the Chicago Bears, but that fell through when a venomous spider bit him on his throwing arm. The dream remained elusive, but Kurtis refused to give up. He took the best job he could find -- in Europe playing for the Amsterdam Admirals.
And then things started to shift. In 1998, Kurtis got a job as backup quarterback for the St. Louis Rams. Not that this was so great, either. St. Louis was a lousy team and had a $16 million star quarterback. But for Kurtis, he was inching closer to his dream and the chance to prove himself once and for all.
Kurtis stepped in, took charge -- and the rest is history.
Then in 1999, St. Louis' starting quarterback was injured during pre-season. Just as he had done years earlier with Brenda and her two children, Kurtis stepped in and took charge. And the rest is history.
That season, Kurtis registered an incredible 4,353 passing yards and 41 touchdowns that won him league MVP honors. He marched his team through the playoffs and capped it with a victory in the Super Bowl over the Tennessee Titans, throwing for a record 414 yards and being named the game's Most Valuable Player.
Kurt Warner had persevered, stuck to his guns, and become a superstar.
And he is still making headlines. This season, playing for the Arizona Cardinals, Warner had a banner year that earned him a starting berth in the NFL Pro Bowl. And on February 1, 2009, he will lead Arizona up against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl 43.
Today, Zachary is 19 years old, and although legally blind, he has defied the odds-makers with a miraculous recovery. His success is due in no small part to the love and care showered upon him by a stock boy step-father. After Kurt's victory in the 2000 NFC Championship game, Zachary presented Kurt with a homemade card, scrawled with the words: "You're as good a dad as you are a quarterback."
So next time you're feeling down and just not getting a break, think of Kurtis. Think of the power of sticking to your guns and doing the right thing. Even when the whole world throws you nothing but discouragement, never relinquish your values or lose sight of your dreams.