As quarterback for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, Kurt Warner knows a lot about what it takes to stay fit and take on challenges. After being cut from the Green Bay Packers in 1994, it looked like his NFL career was over. But he didn't give up.
He worked his way back into the NFL, was twice named the league's most valuable player, and has taken teams all the way to the Super Bowl. Since Warner knows a lot about hanging in there during the ups and downs, we decided to ask him about his middle school days.
It's a sort of time in life when you're trying to find your niche and it was no different for me. I was trying to find out who I was and what type of person I wanted to become, because it's not always clear when you're young. Over time, I gravitated to the people and activities I liked — the people I wanted to be like, the things I wanted to do.
Was it clear back then that football was what you really wanted to do?
I started into athletics at a young age, definitely. But it wasn't necessarily football. It was just about all sports. But the point for me wasn't so much a career in sports. I loved playing, anything that got me moving. Of course, I dreamed of being an athlete, but mostly it was about just being active and having fun because I loved it.
It's changed quite a bit for a lot of kids. Nowadays you have so many people who focus on one sport and play that sport year-round — they go to all the camps and the tournaments and get on a lot of teams in that sport. And they're competing against people who are doing the same thing so they might feel like they're falling behind even when they're still learning the game.
I think you're better off, in any part of your life, being well rounded. That gives you more benefit than focusing on one thing. When I was a kid, you were always refreshed and excited about the new season. You know, it's time for basketball now or time for baseball or whatever. And the different sports challenged you in different ways as far as coordination or understanding, so it made you a better athlete. But the best thing was you stayed refreshed because of the variety.
Did most of your exercise and activity come from organized sports?
A lot of it did, but mostly I was just active in my free time, and not necessarily with a team. It was just about doing something — could have been hide-and-seek or tag or making up my own game. I didn't watch a lot of TV, and video games weren't as big then as they are now. I didn't sit around much. It was always like, what can I do now?
What advice do you give middle school kids about dealing with tough times?
The first thing I tell them is that everybody goes through it. It's not just them. We all go through difficulties. You can be sure of it. The question is how you deal with it. The most important thing is that you don't lose faith in yourself. It's so easy at a young age to get discouraged and to buy into something negative somebody is telling you about yourself or just get discouraged by what your circumstances are.
My life has sort of become testimony to the fact that you shouldn't let your situation dictate your attitude. If you keep your work ethic, keep focusing on your dream, never waver in your approach, eventually you will be in a better position to accomplish things down the road. That's why it's so important to be surrounded by friends and coaches and people who are encouraging. Of if you don't have those people, try to gravitate toward people or friends who do.
You're one of the stars and veterans on the Cardinals. The younger players look up to you as a leader. How do you handle that?
Number one, from my perspective, is to lead by example. You live your life the way you feel called to lead your life. For me, that's directly related to my faith. The way you live is always going to have the greatest impact on others. Your actions will always speak louder than your words. People on a team or in school or wherever will know first what they see you do. If that earns their respect, your words will become more powerful.