Clear Destiny – Kurt Warner MVP NFL 1999

Dream of the Impossible

At 16, Kurt Warner dreamt of following the footsteps of Joe Montana, who broke his all-time passing record in 1990 and became the Superbowl XVI Most Valuable Player (MVP).

However, Kurt knew the odds of becoming a professional National Football League (NFL) player, what more than becoming the Superbowl's MVP. In the States, over 1 million athletes play high school football, and out of those, only 5% (50,000) will continue to play football in college. Then, only 1% of those get drafted to the NFL, and most who join NFL do not stay for more than three years. Only a select few plays at the Super Bowl, and each year, only one person will be awarded the MVP. Kurt knew his dream was almost impossible.

The Journey of the Impossible

The journey toward the Impossible does not look realistic at all. He didn’t get a football scholarship to any Division I college and only became a starter in his fifth and final year. He did not get drafted in the first and second rounds and only got a tryout with Green Bay Packers in 1994. This lasted only for two days. To pay bills, he worked bagging groceries and stocking supermarket shelves.

He played football in the Arena Football League for two years before St. Louis Rams signed him in December 1997. He was still a backup quarterback, but his luck turned around when the starting quarterback, Trent Green, injured his knee in the 1999 pre-season. Nobody believed and trusted in him except for Head Coach Dick Vermeil. Kurt Warner brought St. Louis Rams to their first Super Bowl title in 1999; he threw 414 yards for a Super Bowl record and was then named the game’s MVP. He earned his pursuit of the impossible.

Life Lessons from Kurt Warner

There are four things we can learn from this man who turned from part-time bagging groceries and stocking supermarket shelves to becoming a two-time NFL Most Valuable Player, Super Bowl champion, Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, and in 2017 received the ultimate professional honor of being inducted into pro football’s Hall of Fame.

1.     Have a precise and clear vision of what you want to achieve

2.     Work hard and never lose hope. Do not quit on your dreams and continue to fight regardless of the circumstance you face.

3.     Believe in yourself, and trust and work with people who believe in you.

4.     Every failure is a step to success.

The Change Management of Kurt Warner

There are a few common themes between the characteristic of Kurt Warner and the Change Management model. They are:

1.     Have a clear target and end state.

  • ‘Successful changes require leaders to articulate a consistent, achievable, inspiring, and easily understood vision that guides the organization to measurable achievement of expected benefits.’ The Standard for Change Management, 1st Edition, 2019, The Association of Change Management Professionals.
  • Without a clear target, users might get confused along the way, and start negative questioning and doubting.
  • Kurt Warner defined his end goal as ‘Achieving the Most Valuable Player in the Professional National Football League (NFL) Super Bowl’, which was SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and has a Time bound).

2.     Trust from Stakeholders

  • He consistently worked hard before he was signed to the team in 1997. This was an important stepping stone for his success.
  • The backbone of any sustained and successful change is the support of its stakeholders.

Lastly, like any change effort, success needs planning, time, effort and stakeholders' support or buy-in. Kurt Warner achieved his goal through a clear vision, hard work, consistency, perseverance, trust, good family and friends' support, and confidence from the people around him.

Play Hard, Pray Even Harder

Inspired by a Netflix Movie – The American Underdog

Khuzaini Ismail

Managing Partner

HumanCapient Consulting