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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Those who tuned in to Super Bowl XXXIV saw Kurt Warner zinging picture-perfect football spirals left, right, and center while leading the St. Louis Rams to a surreal victory. At that point, even dedicated fans knew little of the buzz-cut quarterback with the George Michael stubble beyond his previous career as a grocery clerk and his bedrock Christian faith. In All Things Possible, Warner happily amplifies both these elements of his life, as well as his remarkable resurrection from football oblivion.
Warner grew up in Iowa, where he was a high school standout in both football and basketball. Spurned by Iowa University's legendary football coach Hayden Fry, Warner instead quarterbacked Division I-AA Northern Iowa. Although Warner didn't start until his senior year, he made the most of the opportunity, winning the 1993 Gateway Conference Offensive Player of the Year Award and earning a tryout with the Green Bay Packers. He briefly tasted the high life, riding to the Packers compound in a limo, but he was given little chance ousting Brett Favre, Mark Brunell, or Ty Detmer for a roster spot. After getting cut, Warner held on to his football dreams by working out by day and stocking shelves by night. Hy-Vee Supermarket paid him the non-superstar wage of $5.50 an hour.
While quarterbacking at Northern Iowa, Warner had met Brenda Meoni, a born-again Christian and mother of two. Their courtship consisted of country dancing at a Wile E. Coyote's, playing with Brenda's children, and discussing their faith. Like Warner, Brenda had to struggle to make ends meet. Her faith was tested when her parents were killed by a freak tornado, which, in sickening irony, occurred at the same time the film Twister and its media blitz were released.
Brenda's hardship made Kurt's own football difficulties seem mild in comparison. As Kurt's relationship with Brenda deepened, so did his newfound faith. With a world of perspective, Kurt rose through three seasons of arena football, one season of NFL Europe, and a year on the bench as the Rams third-string QB. Hayden Fry was not the only Warner skeptic -- Rams offensive coordinator Mike Martz (later the team's head coach) was equally difficult to win over. Finally, when Trent Green was injured during a 1999 preseason game, Head Coach Dick Vermeil gave Warner the starting nod. Regular-season and Super Bowl MVP honors followed for Warner in what ESPN's Chris Berman called the most remarkable single season-story in sports history.
All Things Possible is filled with enough football chatter to fill a Super Bowl pregame show and enough God-speak to fill a preacher's sermon. However, despite his obvious religious convictions, Warner is not in the least self-righteous, easing the conflation of football and religion for readers who are not apt to consider the two together. In fact, had he wished, Warner could have gone further in explaining his and Brenda's religious convergence. Warner's gratitude to God is palpable, but he is vague on his direct religious experience, perhaps regarding that information as too personal. But such caution aside, Warner's candor (and healthy optimism) are the stuff of dreams fulfilled. And what a dream: obscurity to stardom, with football's greatest championship game as the clincher. (Brenn Jones)