The former NFL MVP and Hall of Fame inductee from Cedar Rapids shared some advice with the athletes in attendance at the Des Moines Register's Sports Awards on June 21, 2019. The Des Moines Register
NFL Hall of Fame quarterback and native Iowan Kurt Warner took center stage Friday at the fourth Des Moines Register Sports Awards.
The MVP of Super Bowl XXXIV and member of the NFL Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017 delivered a message of positivity and character to more than 500 of Iowa’s best high school athletes.
Des Moines Register sports reporter Cody Goodwin led the question and answer portion of the evening with Warner, who said he learned the hard way as a high school freshman how to become a quarterback (read later about the “Kill Kurt Drill”) and reminded the crowd to concentrate less on accomplishments and statistics and more on being a good person and teammate.
“Spend time thinking about who you want to be before you spend your time deciding what you want to accomplish,” he said.
Here are some highlights from their discussion:
Goodwin: Welcome back. What do you think of the Barnstormers’ new home? I’m pretty sure we can see your jersey up there (in the rafters) if we squint.
Warner: This place is pretty sweet. … I don’t see the jersey, but I’ll trust you. … Any place — it could be an outhouse, it could be your bedroom — as long as somebody hangs your jersey up there, it’s a pretty cool place.
Goodwin: I have to ask: Is there any advice that you’d like to give to these young athletes that are in attendance tonight?
Warner: If there’s one piece of advice that I would give all of you as you move forward — and it doesn’t even have to be in sports — in whatever you do, spend time thinking about who you want to be as opposed to what you want to accomplish.
What do I mean by that? Decide the kind of person that you want to be — how you want to represent yourself, what you want people to say about you, what you want them to remember about you when it’s all said and done.
I wanted to be a certain kind of guy. I wanted to be a leader. I wanted to be recognized as a hard worker. I wanted to be the guy that was more prepared than everybody else.
When I think about my kids growing up, I don’t care if they ever talk about how many touchdown passes I threw. I want them to talk about the dad that I was — the father that I was to them, the husband that I was to my wife, the teammate that I was to my teammates, the way I represented myself and my family in every facet, in every area that I went to.
I believe that greatness in whatever field you’re in will follow when you decide to be (a great person). And that’s not just trying to check a box. I think everybody as an athlete, the one thing they always say is, "I’m going to be the hardest worker." Well, I promise you, not every one of you will be the hardest worker. It just won’t play out like that.
Some of us, that’s not necessarily not our DNA — that we’re going to separate ourselves by being the hardest worker. That’s OK. You still work hard without being the hardest worker.
But how are you going to separate yourself? How are you going to be different? How are people going to remember you in a way that’s different than they remember anybody else that they were around?
Pro Football Hall of Famer and former NFL MVP Kurt Warner talks about his Iowa roots and how they shaped who he is today during the Des Moines Register's 2019 Sports Awards on June 21, 2019. The Des Moines Register
Goodwin: How often do you come back to Iowa and do you still follow UNI athletics?
Warner: I still follow Iowa across the board — as much as I possibly can. I still have family in the Cedar Rapids area, where I grew up. My wife has family in the Quad Cities area, as well, so we get back as much as we can.
But, as you mentioned, I got seven kids. They’ve always got something going so it’s tough to get all on the same schedule where we can come back.
But it’s nice to have opportunities to come back like this.
Goodwin: What do you remember most about your high school playing days at Cedar Rapids Regis?
Warner: We had some great times. I played anything and everything that had a ball. But the most important thing was I was always out there with my buddies. We were out there competing and having a great time and building relationships.
(We) had some success in high school, but more importantly it was the relationships that I built.
Goodwin: I understand you didn’t want to be a quarterback at first. When did that change?
Kurt Warner says it was his playing days at Cedar Rapids Regis and the University of Northern Iowa that paved the way for greatness in the NFL. Des Moines Register
Warner: I wouldn’t really say that it changed. I was kind of forced to change. I was a wide receiver all the way up until high school. And, obviously, I felt that I was a pretty good wide receiver.
I went off to play high school football at Regis. When I was a freshman we had nobody try out for the quarterback position. So our coach, in all his genius, just lined us all up and said, “OK, I want to see who can throw the ball the farthest.” It really didn’t have anything to do with skill — let’s just see who can throw it the farthest.
So we lined up, I threw the ball the farthest and so the coach just said, "OK, you’re going to be my quarterback."
And I remember thinking, "No, no, you don’t want me as your quarterback. Trust me. … Just leave me at wide receiver — we’re going to be just fine."
He goes, "Nope, you’re my quarterback. Show up tomorrow and we’re going to put you at quarterback."
So I start playing quarterback and the one thing I realized about quarterback is that they want you to just stand there and get hit without trying to avoid the hit. They want you to throw it to somebody else so they can score the touchdowns and they want you to get hit.
So, having been a wide receiver, my goal was always obviously not to get hit. So I drop back as a quarterback and first sign of any pressure I’m taking off and running. I’m getting out of there. I do not want to get hit.
I remember coming to practice about a week into it. I wasn’t going to stand in the pocket. And he goes, “OK, I got a new drill for us. We’re going to call this drill the Kill Kurt drill.”
Right, you never want that kind of drill named after you.
So he said, “Here’s the deal. You’re going to drop back and you cannot go any farther than outside the tackles. So all you have to do is stand in the pocket, look to make a throw or you have to avoid the pass rush. Otherwise you’re getting hit. We are not letting you run anymore.”
We would do that drill over and over and over. … My buddies loved that drill. It was a free opportunity to tee off on Kurt.
Warner went on to say his early weaknesses as a quarterback, including staying in the pocket and being willing to take a hit, became his strengths.
Warner: When people talk about my career as a football player now, they say one of my greatest traits was my toughness, my ability to stand in the pocket and take a hit and deliver a throw.
So often in we want to gravitate to what we do well. Isn’t that the truth? When it goes to practice — "Well, I’m really good at this, this is fun, so I’m going to practice this."
Sometimes if we’re willing to attack our weaknesses, if we’re willing to spend some time on the things we don’t do well, ultimately those things can become the things that separate us … set us apart from everyone else.
Scenes from inside Wells Fargo Arena during the 2019 Des Moines Register Sports Awards with NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner. The Des Moines Register