The only Pro Football Hall of Fame member who played at UNI returned to his alma mater Monday night (April 23, 2018).

Retired NFL quarterback Kurt Warner shared his life experiences with the current UNI student-athletes and athletic staff members inside the Maucker Union Ballroom on campus. Warner's message to the group centered upon dreams and how to accomplish what you set out to do.

"You have to commit to next level living if you want to reach next level dreams," Warner said. "The message is taking advantage of your moments. So often in life we see the big things. We don't realize the smaller moments that really shaped who we are. Take advantage of your moments. Don't miss those little moments that ultimately are the ones that shape you accomplishing your big dreams. Too often they are missed.

"You can't be afraid to fail if you want to succeed," Warner said later. "Life is about moments and what we do in those moments. It all comes down to what did you learn in those moments. Working at Hy-Vee that's not how it was supposed to turn out. It's not how I dreamed it growing up. It's easy to say 'why me?' But what can I do to separate myself from everyone else? It's so easy to get your eyes off the prize. Big dreams. Big focus. Stay focused on the goal."

Warner led the St. Louis Rams to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIV (34) and in that same year was named the NFL and Super Bowl MVP. He served as the ringleader for what became known as "The Greatest Show on Turf", leading the Rams to the playoffs two more times and to another Super Bowl. Warner was also named the NFL MVP in 2001.

After battling injuries, the Cedar Rapids native was released by the Rams and signed a one-year deal with the New York Giants in 2004. In March of 2005, Warner was signed by the Arizona Cardinals where most football experts believed his career would end quietly. However, after battling through an elbow injury in 2007, he led the Cardinals to the franchise's first Super Bowl berth in 2008. He was voted to the Pro Bowl and surpassed several Cardinals' records for touchdowns, attempts, completions, completion percentage and passer rating.

Warner announced his retirement in January 2010, calling it a career after 12 seasons in the NFL. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017. He ranks second in NFL Super Bowl history with 1,156 passing yards in his three championship game appearances, which include three of the top four Super Bowl passing games of all-time (414, 377, 365).

Warner turned to broadcasting after ending his NFL career, working with the NFL Network and Westwood One.

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Courtesy: UNI Athletics via YouTube
Courtesy: UNI Athletics via YouTube

UNI volleyball player Piper Thomas, a junior from Jesup, reflected on what she learned from the 90-minute session with Warner.

"It was a cool opportunity to have him here and listen to him talk about his experiences," Thomas said. "It was very inspiring. The lessons that he's learned and shared with us are important. He talked about going out every day and putting in the work every day and finding a way to separate yourself from everyone else. It's pretty meaningful."

UNI men's basketball player Austin Phyfe, a freshman from Waverly, said he took a few items from the speech that Warner presented.

"Keep pushing through adversity and keep believing in what you are doing," Phyfe said. "To hear it from someone who overcame failure and seeing how successful you can be is inspiring. Your dreams can come true if you keep working toward your dreams. They can become a reality."

UNI head volleyball coach Bobbi Petersen said Warner's words can definitely ring true.

"It is huge, and it's so important that if you want to make a difference, you do have to live at the next level," Petersen said. "It's not about just one practice or one drill. It's everyday living. Everything he said about the fear of failure is spot on. If you don't learn how to deal it, then you are going to be stuck in a failing hole."

Warner, who was born in Burlington, said he enjoys coming back to Iowa because it's where it all started.

"It's always great to come back to this area," Warner said. "You reflect on those moments that catapulted you to where you are now. Were it not for UNI and my time in Cedar Falls it could have turned out differently."

Story Contributor: UNI Athletic Communications
Video-Courtesy: UNI Athletics via YouTube

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