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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Kurt Warner wants you to know a couple of things before you head out to see his “life story.”
“American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story” hits theaters on Christmas Day. It’s the story of Warner’s rise from grocery store stocker to Pro Football Hall of Famer.
But the Burlington-born and Cedar Rapids-raised quarterback said this is not a documentary and really only a snippet of his life.
“We’re extremely happy with the film,” he said in a telephone interview last week. “We understand it’s still a movie.
“At the end of the day, it’s about part of our story.”
Warner also wants you to know he has an “unbelievable relationship with my dad,” Gene. Warner’s parents divorced when he was 6 and he, along with brother Matt, lived with his mother, Sue.
The movie kind of glosses over his relationship with his dad and, as they say in the business, most of that ended up on the cutting room floor.
“That’s been a hard part of the process,” Warner said. “That disappoints you a little bit.”
The movie also takes some liberties with Warner’s life before he became an NFL star. The Terry Allen character — Warner’s coach at UNI — is kind of a combination of Allen and Warner’s Regis High School coach, Gaylord Hauschildt.
Things were left out, he said, or slightly altered to “create more drama,” something common when anyone’s “life story” hits the big screen.
But all in all, Warner and his wife, Brenda, love the movie.
“This movie is still based on truth,” he said. “It’s very exciting. How many people get a movie made about their story?”
For those who don’t know, Warner is a former Cedar Rapids Regis quarterback who waited in the wings for three years at UNI before finally getting his shot to lead the Panther football team. He responded by earning Gateway Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors, passing for 2,747 yards and 17 touchdowns and leading the Panthers to the playoffs.
His early professional career trended the same way. He went undrafted in 1994, but was offered a tryout — and was cut by — the Green Bay Packers.
His dream didn’t die, though. He returned to Cedar Falls, worked as a graduate assistant for the Panthers and stocked groceries.
His first professional break came with the Iowa Barnstormers, where he played three seasons and passed for more than 10,000 yards and 183 touchdowns.
Those kind of numbers get the attention of the NFL and, in 1997, Warner got his shot, albeit with a detour to NFL Europe.
He became the St. Louis Rams’ starter in 1999 when Cedar Rapids native Trent Green had a season-ending injury, and the rest, as they say, his history — or, in this case, his story.
More than 32,000 yards, 208 TDs and three Super Bowl appearances, as well as NFL and Super Bowl MVP honors, followed.
It’s one of the greatest stories in NFL history, one Warner thinks is a great lesson for others who feel like giving up on their dreams, giving up on life.
He wants to “use that to truly impact people, inspire people.”
And while the Christmas Day release for this deeply religious man was not planned “we just think it’s a perfect time for the movie.”
Kurt and Brenda were heavily involved in the making of “American Underdog,” which is based on Warner’s book “All Things Possible.” The two were part of the process with the screen play and the filming.
“It’s been an interesting process,” he said. “It truly was a collaborative effort ... they listened to us.”
But some things, he said, were better left to the movie-making pros.
“We probably would have screwed the movie up” with too much input, he said with a laugh. “You only get one shot to make a movie of your life.”
Warner, who turned 50 in June and has added two grandchildren to his family, just wanted it to be a good story, a truthful story — something he’d watch even if it wasn’t about his life.
“You want to leave everybody with something,” he said. “I love great stories. I’d rather have a story that moves me.”
And at the end of the day, he thinks it was mission accomplished.
“We loved it,” he said.
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