I spent some of the most formative years of my life in Canton, Ohio. The Pro Football Hall of Fame was very close to my home, and I was there many times. My mother never understood its magnetic draw to so many. Frequently, visitors from out of town would want to take the tour. Mom would shake her head in wonder that they would actually pay to go see those plastic heads. Of course, she never watched the game, and she didn’t get it.
Those of us who are true fans, and jump out of our seats at questionable calls or spectacular plays, feel quite a bit differently. Most of the men in our family are football fans. We love Monday Night Football, Sunday Night Football, and any other time we can get football. So when the big guys we watched for years come to town, it’s a big deal. This weekend is the HOF game and the induction of the newest members of the Hall of Fame (a.k.a the newest plastic heads). Seven heroes of the game were elected to the Hall of Fame. The Class of 2017 consists of kicker Morten Andersen; running back Terrell Davis; safety Kenny Easley; owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones; defensive end Jason Taylor; running back LaDainian Tomlinson; and quarterback Kurt Warner.
There are 32 teams in the NFL, and each year the Hall of Fame Selection Committee gets a list of about 100 players who have been nominated for the Class of 2017. The committee is asked to whittle the list down to 15 finalists. There will also be 2 contributor finalists and 1 finalist from the seniors committee, which will bring the total of finalists to 18.
Selection rules stipulate that at least 4 people get inducted each year, with a maximum of 8. To be inducted, a finalist needs to receive at least 80 percent support from the 46-person selection committee. Only a select few of the little boys who began dreaming in grade school will make this honored list. To get an idea how great an honor this is, and how few make it, consider that only 3-4% of high school players ever get to play college ball, and only 7% of those eligible to be drafted for pro ball even get a look. The average NFL career is 3.5 years, not much time to make a Hall of Fame career. In those career years you have to be far and away superior, steady, and memorable. Then, after you leave, you have to be retired at least 5 years to be considered. So, you have to have made an impression that lives in memory.
One of my personal favorites, former quarterback Kurt Warner, will be enshrined this weekend. While great character is not a requirement for an inductee, Kurt gets my vote for this reason, above and beyond the storybook football career he has had. Getting an opportunity was a challenge for Warner throughout his professional career. He wasn’t drafted coming out of Northern Iowa in 1994. He played in the Arena League and NFL Europe, and worked at a Hy-Vee grocery store in between to make ends meet. He has had many setbacks and disappointments, including the fact that it took him three separate years and nominations to get into this elite group.
Warner decided to retire from the Cardinals at age 39 after 12 NFL seasons. "This is an extraordinary honor for an extraordinary person," Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said. "Every day and in every possible way, Kurt Warner has demonstrated the excellence for which the Hall of Fame stands, and we are thrilled to see him take his rightful place among the game's all-time greats."
As a public figure, Warner has told his story often, emphasizing to people that they should believe in themselves and persevere through difficult times. “Faith can get you a long way,” Warner said. He is a family man far above being a football player. He is only one of three inductees in history who chose his wife for the high honor to be his presenter this weekend. He said there was no other logical choice, as she was always his greatest support and the tallest figure in his life.
Warner is a devoted Christian, set apart in life for his perseverance, integrity, commitment, faithfulness, and generous financial giving to the causes of Christ and the needy world. He gets my nomination for my personal Hall of Fame. Faith, family, faithfulness, football—all in the right order.
Congratulations, Kurt Warner. Thanks for a great career and a great example.