Hlas Column on Kurt Warner’s First Foundation — His Mom

Brenda, Kurt and Sue Warner at Sues Cedar Rapids carpet store a month after the June flood (Dave Knoer/American Red Cross)

Brenda, Kurt and Sue Warner at Sue's Cedar Rapids carpet store a month after the June flood (Dave Knoer/American Red Cross)

Sue Warner is in the carpet business. That’s only fitting, since carpeting is part of a home

She has given her younger son family discounts when she and her husband of six years, Tom Miller, have laid carpet and other flooring in the son’s houses in Arizona and Florida.

The son, the starting quarterback of the Super Bowl-bound Arizona Cardinals, is near the end of a 3-year contract that has been worth over $20 million.

“He says ‘Mom, I don’t want a discount.’ Well, he’s family.”

 So he got the discount forced upon him. Mom still has the final word.

 You want to know where Kurt Warner comes from? Cedar Rapids, of course. But more specifically, he’s the son of a 60-year-old woman who has worked hard her whole life, shares Kurt’s profound faith in God, has persevered through tough times, and never taken her good times for granted.

 She is someone who, after working as a plate maker at Sealed Air Cryovac for 28 years, bought Schumacher Carpet in Cedar Rapids with Miller four years ago. She is someone who saw last June’s flood decimate their 622 First Avenue NW store, only to dig in and do the long, hard work to get it reopened in November.

 “I probably was broken for a few hours,” Sue said, intentionally using understatement. “It wasn’t fun.”

 She not only has continued to support herself since Kurt signed his first NFL contract in 1998, but she is incredulous whenever anyone asks why she would do so.

 Sue said “I know people who have said ‘Why can’t you just quit work?’ Well, number one, and do what? And why do you think Kurt has to support me the rest of my life? What is that? I don’t get that.

 “I’m blessed. I have a husband now. I have a wonderful home. We have the business. I can make it. I don’t need Kurt’s money. I don’t want Kurt’s money.”

 But there’s more to it than the maternal feeling that she should always give to her children, not take from them.

 “When Kurt can bless so many people through his foundation, through Habitat for Humanity, through building playgrounds for underprivileged children, when he can do all these things that I can’t do, that’s awesome that he gives his money there. He’s blessing so many more people than I would bless if he was going to give me a lot of money.”

 It’s not like the famous football player never springs for this or that for his mom, including trips to Tampa later this week for her and Tom to see him play in next Sunday’s Super Bowl.

 When Kurt’s wife, Brenda, wanted a new car, her Infiniti was sent to Cedar Rapids. That came in more than a little handy, since both Sue and Tom’s vehicles had over 150,000 miles on them.

 But their store, and the house on two acres in Swisher that Sue and Tom purchased? That came from their savings and sweat.

 “We want to make it our own success and our own store,” Sue said.

“When we first bought this business we told the Lord we were dedicating it to him and we were going to do it for his glory.”

Sue’s other son, Matt Warner of Cedar Rapids, also does well for himself. Sue calls him a “computer guru, very successful, very intelligent, wanted in his field.” Matt is 38, 15 months older than Kurt.

“Matt makes a better living than me, which I’m very proud of,” Sue said. “But I just told Matt that if thinks he can retire before Mom, that’s going to make Mom mad.”

Sue and Gene Warner, who lives in Solon, split up when Kurt was 4. “He stayed a big part in the boys’ lives, and has been a very faithful follower of Kurt,” Sue said.

But Sue raised her two sons in a small house on Park Avenue SE. She said the boys not only shared a room, but a bed. The house was full of love, but there was never a question of who was the boss.

“For most of my life I was a single mother,” Sue said. “You did what you had to do. I’m not a real patient person. I didn’t take a lot of guff off my kids. They chose not to give me any, I guess. I knew if I let them get me one time, I’d lose the battle. You had to be strong every time as far as disciplining or saying no.

“They were always very respectful of me. Kurt even hung around with me a lot. I think he felt sorry for me because Mom was all alone.”

She laughs about the various times people have told her their sons played with Kurt in the Metro Youth Football Association. He never did. She couldn’t afford it. He played flag football at Jane Boyd Community House, instead.

Over the course of an interview last week, Sue mentioned moments in time when she gave Kurt counsel about what to do in tough portions of his football career. Strung together, it sounds like he got perfect counsel.

There was the time Kurt was a ninth-grader playing football at Regis and his coach moved him to quarterback. He had wanted to be a running back, wanted to carry the ball.

“I said ‘Give it a try, honey.’ You know the rest,” Sue said, then laughed and added “Number one, he can’t run.”

There was the time Kurt was in the middle of three years of being a backup on Northern Iowa’s team.

 Said Sue: “Kurt said ‘I think I want to transfer so I can go somewhere else and play. I said ‘Honey, I understand that, but you’re not really there to play football. You’re there to get an education. After college, what’s football going to mean?’

 “I said ‘I want you to hang in there, we’re not quitters.’ I think he got a similar message from his dad. So he stayed, and you know the rest of the story.”

 There was the time Kurt had just finished his third season with the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League. He was 26, with a new family to support.

 “He said ‘What do you think, Mom, should I give up my dream of being in the pros now? I’ve got Brenda now and she’s got two kids.’ I said ‘If you still feel you can do it then give it another chance.’ About that time, that’s when he signed on with the Rams.”

 Sue said had she thought it was truly time for Kurt to leave football behind, she would have told him.

 “But as a parent, it’s hard to let go of your kids’ dreams.”

 The dream was realized and improved by a thousand times when Kurt quarterbacked St. Louis to the NFL title in the 1999 season. But from 2002 through 2006, he changed teams twice and was in and out of starting lineups.

 His next dream became being a winning and vital quarterback once more, showing he still had what he when he led the St. Louis Rams to two Super Bowls and earned two league MVP awards.

 A week from day, Kurt will lead the Arizona Cardinals against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Tampa. It’s another Super Bowl.

 “I’m just glad,” Sue said, “that my son, once again, has realized a dream.”



3 responses to “Hlas Column on Kurt Warner’s First Foundation — His Mom

  1. Mike, you take a situation that could be completely and cheaply sentimentalized, and just tell the truth, and generate real sympathy and insight instead of the saccharine kind.

  2. Excellent story, Mike!

  3. gail warner koury

    I believe Kurt may be my cousin. My Uncle was from Marion Iowa and had many children in the Marion and Cedar Rapids area. He looks exactly like my brother. My father and Uncle are now dead and I am looking for relatives. Dont care what he does for a living, Just want to know if he may be family so I have some left. Thank you. My uncle was Carl Ruben Warner and wife Edith from Marion. My father Lloyd R Warner. Family came from Sweeden I believe and moved to Pendar Nebraska. Thank you for your time.

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