“American Underdog,” an appropriate title for the quarterback and NFL’s Hall of Fame star, tells Kurt Warner’s incredible journey.
Despite being a practice-squad quarterback, he led the Rams to success in the 2000 Super Bowl, in which he was awarded Most Valuable Player.
But Warner’s tale is much more than football heroics and you must know how.
“American Underdog: The Kurt Warner Story” (in cinemas now) is a love story of Kurt and his extraordinary marriage to wife Brenda that is faith-filled. The pair, who have been married for 24 years, acted as producers on the film, which was directed by Jon Erwin and Andrew.
“Every scene in this movie is as real as you get, and that was important to us,” says Warner. “Now there’s always going to be some Hollywood in how we tell that story, some creative license.”
So, in “American Underdog,” what is genuine and what isn’t? And what’s the story with the locker room screen kiss? Let’s look into it:
Brenda and Kurt Warner were introduced via beautiful country line dancing
“Underdog” depicts college quarterback Warner being dragged by a teammate to Wild E. Coyote, to go line dancing. Brenda Meoni, a freshly divorced single mother of two, meets by accident, right down to the replicated bar.
“We did this barn dance where you switch partners. And there he was,” says Brenda. “He said, ‘I’m Kurt’ I said, ‘I’m Brenda.’ And that is honestly all I knew about him until he showed up at my parents’ house the next morning with a rose.”
As Warner performed his dancing movements, flames flew. Brenda, on the other hand, was not enamored with the shady quarterback.
“I just thought, ‘Dude, you’re cute and nice. But I’m a single mom of two on food stamps. So if this isn’t gonna work, let’s just say it right now,” says Brenda. “That chance meeting was how it happened. What if he hadn’t come to the bar that night? What if I didn’t do that barn dance? Little did we know that the rest of the journey would be as unique and interesting as that first night.”
Kurt struck up an instant connection with Brenda’s children.
Kurt came up to Brenda’s parents’ home the following morning, smitten. She was still wearing her cosmetics from the night before and cuddling her 9-month-old baby, Jesse Jo.
Brenda said, “My makeup was a mess. I had bedhead and was in a robe holding my baby when he knocked.”
Kurt quickly warmed to her son Zack, who was blind due to a terrible brain injury. “Zack took his hand and led him on a tour of my parents’ home,” Brenda recounts, noting that she had a different radio station playing in each room to help her kid.
Kurt and Zack eventually found themselves relaxing on the restroom floor.
“I find them on the floor just listening to music. It was absolutely beautiful, even if people might think that’s made up,” Brenda adds. “The best part of this love story is (that) Kurt and Zack fell in love before Kurt and I fell in love.”
Hayden Zaller, a blind kid actor making his cinematic debut, plays Zack.
“It was important to me that they found an actor that was truly blind,” says Brenda. “And when I met Hayden and heard his story, I thought, this is another American underdog story.”
Kurt obtained legal custody of Zack and Jesse Jo. Jada Jo, Sienna Rae, Sierra Rose, Elijah, and Kade are the couple’s other five children.
To make ends meet, Warner found a job at a grocery store
Warner’s lowest professional time is legendary in football. “Underdog” depicts Warner getting released by the Green Bay Packers and working at Hy-Vee, a grocery in Cedar Falls to earn a living before joining the Arena Football League’s Iowa Barnstormers in 1995.
“What I realize is most people have their supermarket moment, where they say, ‘Why am I here? And how do I get outta here?'” says Warner. “As I say in the movie, ‘Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do while you’re waiting to do what you’re born to do.'”
The store segment, according to Warner, “connects people to our story in a unique way.”
Kurts’ quarterback ascent was genuine, but the locker room kiss was not.
Rams head coach Dick Vermeil welcomed the unknown quarterback onboard and created headlines by designating Warner his starter after Trent Green’s injury in 1999. In “Underdog,” Vermeil’s identical remarks to Warner are repeated: “There’s something special about you, son, and I can’t wait to find out what it is,” he said.
Brenda never recited Zack’s motivating comments to Kurt Warner in the locker room prior to his first game, which ended in a passionate kiss.
“We didn’t go near each other before a game; it worked for both of us,” says Brenda. “He gets in this zone. And I wouldn’t have known how to get into a locker room before an NFL game. So yes, some creative license there.”
However, the words and support were genuine for Kurt. “It was important to see that he received those words from his kids at very important times of his life. So there is so much realness there,” says Brenda.
The fictitious kiss foreshadows a well-known TV scene: Kurt Warner kissing Brenda in the stands after winning the Super Bowl MVP award. Following significant Warner triumphs, the pair repeated the celebration.
“That kiss happened, but outside of the locker room,” Kurt explains. “That moment ultimately becomes what people recognize with our story, the kiss in public. But you see the inspiration that spearheaded the journey to the biggest moment in my life.”