Kurt Warner doesn't take second chances lightly.
In the 1990s, fresh off a successful season at the University of Northern Iowa, the promising quarterback went undrafted — and despite a tryout with the Green Bay Packers, was cut before the beginning of the season. He spent his days stocking shelves at a grocery store in Cedar Falls, Iowa, earning $5.50 an hour.
We all know how the story unfolds, that the supermarket gig wasn't his destiny. Warner turned into one of those feel-good success stories we latch onto regardless of team loyalties: He led the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals to Super Bowl victories before retiring in 2010, and is a two-time league MVP.
Now he's back with a new reality TV series called "The Moment," which premieres Thursday on USA Network. The show, which feels like a perfect fit for Warner, gives nine people a second chance to pursue their dream career. There's a wannabe Nascar driver. A former aspiring Olympic sailor who gets a chance at captaining an America's Cup yacht. A toy designer, a choreographer, a sports photographer. Each participant is mentored and trained for two weeks before trying out for the coveted position.
Warner spoke to U.S. News about what to expect from the show and what it means to him:
How did your personal experiences shape your perspective on the show?
So often in life, we miss out on first opportunities. Where my story comes into play is understanding that the first time around, some things happened and I wasn't quite ready. And where would I be had I not gotten a second chance? Where would my life be, what would I be doing right now? I know so much of what I have and who I am is because of that second chance. I think everybody deserves that, and hopefully I'll be able to inspire and encourage people to really chase after their dreams and not give up — just because one time it didn't work out, or you made one mistake, or life dealt you a bad hand at one point in time.
Your wife, Brenda, is a former Marine who had to leave the Corps after her infant son was injured and she needed to take care of him.
Yeah, so I see the flip side of it, too. She loved the Marines — she felt like that was her calling and she was going to spend the rest of her life doing it. I can't tell you the number of times I've heard her talk about that time period, and since then, she's never really had that thing to make her passionate, that drive in her life, to really fill that void. I see that, and I know there are so many people out there who are longing for the opportunity to have another chance at whatever it is they want. Even when I was working in a grocery store, I never let football out of my life—it was always something I loved to do. And I think that's important: Even if you can't chase your dream to the Nth degree, make sure it's still part of your life.
"The Moment" is positive, and you've said that you didn't want to be involved with something negative or mean. That's quite a departure from most reality TV shows today.
I feel like we live in a society that looks at life in two different ways. We like reality television or situations where somebody else is worse than we are — we watch because we're going to feel better about ourselves compared to those people. I want to show people that they can do more, they can be more. They're not just fine because they're better than so-and-so, but they can be better themselves.
Not all of the participants get their dream job, and you teach them that they can't be defined by failure. Why was it important to you to include that in the show?
There's conflicts and struggles and trials, and that's part of life, no question. But at the end of the show, you see people who threw caution to the wind and met those obstacles head-on — and even if they didn't get the job, they did something nobody thought they could do, or accomplished something they didn't think possible. If nothing else, they took the step they needed to take to reignite the passion that was there the whole time.
Do some of those people realize they're chasing the wrong dream?
That's really kind of my goal because I think there are so many people out there who have animosity and are miserable and they're going through life thinking 'what if.' This is a chance to find out, you know, what if you did go down that path? Would it make you better? Would it make you feel alive? Or would it just give you closure to go, 'That's not who I am anymore, that's not really what I wanted. And now I appreciate what I have more.'
The participants on "The Moment" are all paired with mentors. Who mentored you before you got your second chance?
I can't say I had one specific one who went with me through the whole journey, but there's no question I had coaches. Regardless of how far I went with my dream, I always had to be teachable. I had different guys along the way who would take me and teach me one thing, and then I'd come across another coach who would help me hone my skills in another way, and then I'd come across another one who would help open a door for me somewhere else. A lot of different people really helped shape who I was—some character-oriented, and some more football-oriented, but all vital in helping me accomplish what I did.