Former NFL MVP Kurt Warner has been working on aspects of the new biopic about his life for a decade. That “American Underdog” is coming out now, on Dec. 25, during Year 2 of the coronavirus pandemic, seems fitting.

The film about the former St. Louis Rams quarterback’s journey from football has-been stocking the shelves of a grocery store to winning the Super Bowl is meant to inspire. And we could definitely use some inspiration right now.

“Three or four years ago, millions of people would have never looked at themselves and said, ‘I’m an underdog,’” Warner said. “Now, boom, with the pandemic and everything that’s happened, I think there’s a lot of people that find themselves in those similar situations that we were in. ‘What does the future look like for me? Is this it? How do I get out of here? I’m stuck in this spot.’

“Our hope with this movie is to kind of encourage and inspire that — yes, you may be here now, but this doesn’t have to be where you end up.”

Warner, an analyst for the NFL Network, was in Seattle last month to work a Seahawks game, and spent some time meeting with local media to promote the movie. Seattle fans should have plenty of not-so-fond memories of Warner — a very successful division rival with the Rams and the Arizona Cardinals, both teams he took to the Super Bowl.

Regardless of how you feel about the jerseys he wore, there’s no question Warner’s story is one of the NFL’s best. He spent five years between the end of his college career at the University of Northern Iowa and his first start in the NFL, where he went on to become the only undrafted player to win the regular season and Super Bowl MVPs while running “The Greatest Show on Turf” with the Rams.


Along the way, he took a night job at the local grocery store, played for the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League (he’s in that hall of fame, too), married a tough ex-Marine named Brenda with two children, including a son left blind after a head injury, and overcame every obstacle put in his way — and there were many.

Here are excerpts from our discussion, edited for length and clarity.

There’s as much shelf-stocking as there is football in the first third of the film, but that seems about right, given the film’s message.    

I think we both know that most people have their supermarket moments, right? Where I want to be there and I find myself here and I don’t know how to close that gap and get there. But sometimes it’s just you’ve got to go day after day and you’ve got to find what you can do in the moment while continuing to chase. There’s a great line in the movie, that sometimes you got to do what you got to do while you’re waiting to do what you want to do. And I think so much of life is like that.

What was your goal with the film?

I think the main goal was to continue to impact people. That’s always been the goal. When I finally got to the NFL, I think that was a mindset of ours through foundations and through the story is just to impact and inspire people to kind of chase their dreams and believe that they can accomplish anything, regardless of what their circumstances say. We always say that you should never let your circumstances define you. But in life, that’s the easy thing to do. And so that was a huge part of the movie: to encourage people that wherever you’re at now is not where you have to end up, and never allow those things to ultimately define who you are.

With a lot of sports biopics, if you take the sports out of the screenplay, there’s not much left. But here there’s a lot of story that happens before you join the Rams.


There’s the football side of it, which a number of people are going to know the story and I think that’s great, and they do a great job sharing that story in the movie. But I think there’s so much more to it when you’ve got my son’s journey, and being an underdog and the injury that he dealt with, and people looking at him and saying, “Oh, you can’t … ,” “You’ll never …” And then you have my wife’s story, going through the divorce and having two kids and her son being injured and her parents’ death, all of those different things. And then you couple it with my journey, and I believe no matter where you find yourself, no matter what your background is, no matter if you’re a mother or father, a husband or wife, brother or sister, male or female, old or young, the goal was to make a movie that people will leave and go, “I connect with that. I see that. I understand that.”

A lot of players struggle after they leave the game. How has your transition been?

I’ve been playing football for 30-plus years, and I knew I was good at that. And the hard thing is that when you’re done with that, now you go, “I haven’t spent any time really developing anything else because it took so much to get good at this.” You wonder if you’re good at anything else. You wonder what else you can do. And so that’s the big transition, going from being really good at something to basically having to start over in some other area. And so it definitely was a challenge. But I think the ones that do it best are the ones that embrace that challenge and understand you’ve got to kind of start at square one again. You don’t get to start at a really high level. You’ve got to build up a new career, and that to me has been a great challenge, and it’s been fun for me to dive into things that I know, like the football side of it and being able to get into broadcasting and learn that trade and try to become good at that.

You retired at 38, but you look like you could suit up right now. In light of Tom Brady’s success into his mid-40s, do you regret retiring so young?

I think there’s times that I do, especially because I feel so good right now. But I also think back and remember why I retired and some of the things that I was going through and some of the stress that was on me at that time, and I know I made the right decision. It’s just you remove yourself for a couple years and you get back to where you want to be and you say to yourself, “Gosh, dang it,” especially with the rules and the way it’s set up. Now I say to myself, “I know I can still throw a football.” The second-to-last game that I played in my career you could argue was the greatest game I played. So I was still playing between the lines at an extremely high level.

“American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story”

With Zachary Levi, Anna Paquin, Hayden Zaller, Ser’Darius Blain, Dennis Quaid. Directed by Andrew and Jon Erwin, from a screenplay by David Aaron Cohen, based on the book “All Things Possible” by Kurt Warner and Michael Silver. 112 minutes. Rated PG for some language and thematic elements. Opens Dec. 25 at multiple theaters.