First Things First: The Rules of Being a Warner

First Things First: The Rules of Being a Warner

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by Kurt Warner, Brenda Warner

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For instance, did you know …

Kurt has to pay his own son to play catch with him in the backyard?

before she met Kurt, Brenda spent several years working abroad as part of U.S. Marine Corps Intelligence?

none of the Warner kinds really wanted to go see their dad play in Super Bowl XLIII?

the last time Kurt saw his Super Bowl ring was when the cleaning

…  See more details below


For instance, did you know …

Kurt has to pay his own son to play catch with him in the backyard?

before she met Kurt, Brenda spent several years working abroad as part of U.S. Marine Corps Intelligence?

none of the Warner kinds really wanted to go see their dad play in Super Bowl XLIII?

the last time Kurt saw his Super Bowl ring was when the cleaning lady pulled it out from under the living room couch along with a stack of Legos, a handful of Cheerios, and a half-used stick of Brenda's deodorant?

First Things First is an intimate, no-holds-barred look at life inside the crazed and chaotic Warner household. Writing from the unique his-and-hers perspectives, Kurt and Brenda share candidly about their marriage, the values they are working to instill in their kids, things they've done right, mistakes they've made along the way, the importance of giving back, and the lasting legacy they hope to leave behind.

Product Details

Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.28(w) x 9.32(h) x 1.15(d)

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first things first

By Kurt Warner Brenda Warner JENNIFER SCHUCHMANN

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2009 Kurt and Brenda Warner
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-3406-6

Chapter One

football Warner style

{KURT} Stupid! You're so stupid! You just lost your team the Super Bowl!

With less than eighteen seconds remaining in the second quarter, I'd just thrown the pass that I thought would give us the lead in Super Bowl XLIII. But as soon as the ball left my hand, my stomach hit the ground. Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison emerged from behind the helmets. I watched in horror as the ball hit him right between the numbers.

Screened by a blitzing player and my offensive linemen, I hadn't seen Harrison in the passing lane. What I thought would be a Cardinals touchdown turned into a mad scramble to stop Harrison from scoring at the other end of the field. I did my best to slow him down enough for one of my teammates to tackle him, but as I lay on the turf watching him weave down the field, all I could think of was how stupid I was. Harrison scored the touchdown that gave the Steelers a ten-point halftime lead.

Even at moments like that, I love my job. When I'm on the field, my mind is totally focused there. I don't scan the stands looking for celebrities in attendance. I don't notice the jeers being hurled at me from opposing fans. I don'tsmile at my kids or wave to my wife during the game. When I'm on the field, I'm locked in. Even after a play like the interception by James Harrison, I was laser focused on finding an opportunity to make up for my mistake.

In the fourth quarter, I got that opportunity. Down 20-7, we knew if we wanted to make a comeback, we would have to open up our offense and throw the ball. For as long as I can remember, those are the times when I've been the most comfortable on the football field-with the ball in my hands, taking charge and dictating the tempo of the game.

Our offense had started clicking in the second half. We had scored once and had gotten a safety, forcing the Steelers up against the ropes. With three minutes remaining in the game, we were down by just four points. We had the ball and the momentum. Now was our chance.

We stayed in the spread offense. My plan was to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald or Anquan Boldin, placing our fate in the hands of two of our best players and allowing them to make plays. The Steelers knew they were having trouble stopping us and had chosen to play a two-man coverage. So, against the league's best defense and one of the most difficult coverages to throw against, I called my favorite play to attack them.

As I took the snap and scanned the field, I knew the odds were good that Larry or Anquan would be open. My first read on the play was to Larry, and I saw that he had gotten a great jump at the snap and had separated from his defender. He caught the ball in the open field and ran sixty-four yards into the end zone.

With 2:37 left to go in the Super Bowl, we had just taken the lead. It was the first time I allowed myself to think, We just might be the World Champions!

Of course, we all know what happened. The Steelers came back with less than a minute on the clock, preventing us from achieving the first Cardinals championship in franchise history.

After eleven years in the NFL, I think I finally have the proper perspective on winning and losing. Losing still stinks. But what happens on the field-whether it's the highest of highs or the lowest of lows-doesn't define me as a person.

Most people think that the stories I'll tell after a Super Bowl will be like the one above-a game-changing moment of threading a great pass through a field of defensive players to the waiting hands of my receiver. Others have seen enough media coverage about me to assume I'll tell stories about how I prayed to Jesus for our team to win. Nothing could be further from the truth. The stories I tell the most are not necessarily exciting to reporters, but I think they're more important.

After my Super Bowl win with the Rams in 1999, my favorite story to tell was one about my kids. I had three kids at the time, and none of them came to the big game. They thought football was "boring."

When the game was over, I couldn't wait to call them. I was in the locker room with my agent, Rob Lefko, who wanted to prep me for a press conference the next day. I had been named Most Valuable Player, and there would be a lot of media attention. I asked him to wait a minute while I called home to talk to my kids.

The phone rang a couple of times before Zack, my oldest, who was nine at the time, answered the phone. Here's what the conversation sounded like from Rob's perspective:

"Hey, buddy! Daddy just won the Super Bowl.... Uh huh ... Did you watch any of the game? ... Uh huh ... Okay ..." And then before I could say, "I love you ...," he was gone.

I turned to Rob and said, "Zack wasn't interested. He was watching Veggie Tales."

The point of the story isn't that my kids do funny stuff; it's that my children remind me that football isn't the most important thing in our world. And I love that! I love that my kids aren't preoccupied with my football career. Ten years later, three kids has turned into seven, but not much has changed about their attitude toward football.

Zack's now nineteen. He is in his fifth year of high school, and he is learning how to live independently. He's legally blind, but after watching him get around, you would never know it. Brenda will tell you more about Zack when she tells you her story.

Jesse is seventeen. I met her when she was nine months old, and we didn't exactly hit it off. But now she's heading off to college and I can't imagine life without her.

Kade is ten. He's our big boy. He plays Pop Warner football, but he doesn't like it much. Brenda once caught me in the backyard trying to pay him a quarter for each pass he caught, but she put a stop to that.

Jada just turned eight. She's our little fashionista, and she's a vegetarian. I'm not sure if she's a vegetarian because she cares so much about animals or because she doesn't like her mother's cooking.

Elijah is five. He's the only one who really cares about football. And he always knows the scores. When I come in after a game, he's always quick to remind me, "Dad, you lost!" Nice, huh?

Sienna and Sierra are our three-year-old twins, affectionately called "Babygirls." Sienna is bigger than Sierra and can often be found hiding out in the snack pantry. Sierra is smaller but spunky like her mother. We often describe their personalities as sweet and spicy.

This year, the oldest five kids got to choose whether or not they wanted to attend the Super Bowl. We didn't give the Babygirls a choice. Zack chose not to come; his hearing has developed to compensate for his blindness, so he finds the fireworks at football games uncomfortably loud. Jesse wanted to come. Brenda wonders if the only reason was because she wanted to be on TV. I'd like to think it was to support her dad, but either way, I was fine with it. Kade, like I said, is playing Pop Warner football, so he's just starting to get into it a bit. He decided he wanted to come. Elijah does whatever Kade does, so of course he was in. That left Jada. At first she wanted to come because everyone else was going. Then she didn't want to waste a whole day watching football.

Sometimes when Brenda takes the kids to my games, they just fall asleep-which is good, because at least they're not bothering her while she's trying to watch the game. But this time, Brenda thought the kids should be there for the memories. She kept saying, "What if this is your last Super Bowl?" But I didn't want the kids to come to the game just because Dad was in the Super Bowl. I don't care if five years from now I have a picture of them in my arms with confetti falling around us. I don't even care if they remember I played football.

In the end, Jada decided to stay home.

Three days after the game, Jada seemed upset. "What's wrong, beautiful?" I asked.

"Dad," she said, "I really wanted to go to the Super Bowl."

That surprised me, because just days earlier she had said that going to the Super Bowl would be a waste of time. Had I missed something?

Brenda explained it to me later. "When Jada went back to school, all her friends mentioned how they saw her brothers and sister on TV, so now Jada wishes she had gone just so her friends would have seen her on TV too."

But here's the funny part: When the cameras showed my family, no one saw Kade because he was tucked inside his hoodie playing with his Nintendo DS rather than watching the game. Some of our friends watching the game on TV didn't even know that Kade had gone with us.

So that's football at the Warner house. Girls who want to get on TV and boys who want to be left alone to play their DS.


At the Super Bowl we were all sitting in the same row. It was me, then Jesse, then Elijah, then Kade. The game was in the third quarter. The third quarter. You know, the one after the huge halftime extravaganza?

I heard Elijah say, "Momma, Momma."

He said it over and over and over, and finally I'm like, "What, Elijah?"

"Is this the Super Bowl or just a normal game?"

"It's the Super Bowl, Elijah. This is the third quarter."

I focused back on the game, but a couple minutes later I heard Elijah again.

"Jesse. Jesse. Jesse. What's an armadillo?"

"Mom, Elijah wants to know what an armadillo is."

Did I mention that it was the third quarter-of the Super Bowl? And all I'm getting is, "What's an armadillo?"

Prior to the game, all they could talk about was getting a puppy. They'd seen the news coverage when Barack Obama had promised his girls a puppy if he won the election. Our kids also wanted a dog, and they tried to talk Kurt into getting one. Kurt, of course, didn't want anything to do with it. So about halfway through the season, I said, innocently enough, "Well, how about Dad gets you a puppy if he wins the Super Bowl?" And the kids all started yelling, "Yeah, Daddy! Yeah, Daddy!" The little ones really know how to work it.

So Kurt said, "I could probably agree to that, because we're not going to the Super Bowl." That's exactly what he said-the emphasis was on the probably.

But somehow it became a pact. When the kids brought up the puppy topic, Kurt would say, "If we go ...," and the kids would say, "When you go ...," But Kurt wasn't worried, because at that point in the season, no one, including Kurt, thought the Cardinals would be in the Super Bowl.

Then the playoffs started.

The way I remember it happening is that a reporter asked Kurt, "Are your kids excited about the playoffs?"

He said, "No, not really. All they care about is that Mom promised them a puppy if we win the Super Bowl."

When I read that, I couldn't believe that Kurt had told the media. Then it became a big deal. At every game, people would ask Kurt, "You get a puppy yet?" or "Did you pick out your puppy?" We started getting leashes and dog dishes in the mail.

So when the Cardinals actually made it to the Super Bowl, the children's thoughts apparently had little to do with football and everything to do with animals-puppies and armadillos.

When the game ended, Kade started crying when he realized we had lost. Bawling. He's a gentle giant, and I assumed his heart was broken for Daddy.

Then Kurt ran over to our front-row seats. I didn't think he would. Usually, he only does that when he wins. He told me later that he knew the kids would be upset, and he wanted them to know he was okay.

So, as he was standing on the field, he said to Kade, "Hey, buddy."

Kade was still crying big crocodile tears.

Kurt said, "It's okay; it's going to be okay. It's just a game. I love you all, and I'll talk to you in a little while."

As we left the stadium, it was total chaos. We had to walk through a bunch of Steelers fans, and, of course, we were wearing red. People yelled stuff-"Go, Steelers!"-right into the kids' faces. When we finally got to our car, Kade had again pulled his hood over his head so no one could tell he was crying.

As we got into the car, Elijah started bawling too. Now, I know he doesn't understand the game, so I didn't know what he was crying about. But he kept crying and crying, until finally he calmed down just enough for me to talk to him.

"Elijah, what are you still crying about?"

He sniffled, his lip quivered, and then he finally got it out: "We're not getting a puppy. Daddy lost the Super Bowl!"

We laughed about it, but Elijah continued to cry.

I'm writing this a month after the Super Bowl. We still haven't gotten a puppy.

Kurt is holding out.


Excerpted from first things first by Kurt Warner Brenda Warner JENNIFER SCHUCHMANN Copyright © 2009 by Kurt and Brenda Warner. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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