Kurt Warner was a college football quarterback with NFL dreams in the 1990s when he met a young woman, Brenda, who caught his eye with her looks but also with her magnetic personality.
She was, he later said, "different than anybody that I've been around."
On paper, though, they were not a perfect match. He was a single college student at Northern Iowa surrounded by friends who only wanted to party. She was a divorced mother of two young boys – including a boy with a disability – who was just trying to survive life until the next meal.
She also was a woman who took her Christian faith seriously. To Kurt, religion was an afterthought.
"My faith didn't look like her faith," Kurt Warner told Christian Headlines.
The upcoming faith-based film, American Underdog (PG), recounts the incredible story of this unlikely romance, which ended with the two getting married and with Kurt adopting her two sons. Of course, the plot also includes a very public story: Kurt leading the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl championship. The movie was directed by Jon and Andrew Erwin, the same filmmakers behind I Can Only Imagine, Woodlawn and I Still Believe.
Brenda "had lived life" and "had a depth to her character" different than anyone he had met, he says.
"If we were going to move forward, she wanted to know, '[Faith] is a big deal for me. I'm already a divorced mother of two. If I'm going to go down this path again, I need to make sure that this guy can live up to what I want in our relationship,'" he said.
Kurt Warner was known as one of the NFL's most outspoken Christian players during his playing career, often pointing heavenward after touchdown passes and often thanking Jesus during post-game interviews.
Brenda was the reason his faith grew.
"I was challenged in my faith," he told Christian Headlines. "... Just being around those kinds of people, you go, 'Okay, there's something different about that person' – even though you can't always put your finger on it. That was something that I recognized very early in our relationship, and especially being a guy that was in college at the time."
Brenda's faith, he said, attracted him to her.
"She looked good, too," he said, laughing. "... I think what keeps you coming back and what really connects you is that there's so much depth here to this person – that it's not just a pretty face. … It's somebody that's going to shape you and direct you and challenge you in new ways. And those were the things that … gravitated me towards her. And those are the things that I fell in love with. And those are the things still to this day that make her so unique."
Brenda Warner told Christian Headlines she hopes moviegoers are encouraged by their story.
"Just because when you see the movie, you see some very hard times," she said. "And I've been through some really difficult situations. And I want to share that just so those people that are sitting there going through it will think, 'You know what? She made it through.' Because [hard times] are going to come at you."
American Underdog releases in theaters Dec. 25. It is rated PG for some language and thematic elements.
Photo courtesy: ©Michael Kubeisy/Lionsgate
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.