Culture

Ram-tough belief

Culture | QB ignites crowd with story of faith, hoops star won't play on the Jewish Sabbath, and other sports news

Issue: "Ken Starr: An honest cop," Nov. 13, 1999

Kurt Warner, the 28-year-old quarterback of the surprise powerhouse St. Louis Rams, is at or near the top of every National Football League statistical category including passing yardage, touchdown passes, and completion percentage. Mr. Warner became a Christian four years ago and recently talked about the change at a Billy Graham Crusade in St. Louis. "That's probably the most thrilling thing that's happened," he said. "To share what the Lord has allowed me to do, there's nothing better. Nothing." Mr. Warner followed an unlikely path to the NFL. He attended the Division 1-AA University of Northern Iowa and became a starter only in 1993, his final year there. After a failed tryout with the Green Bay Packers he played so well in the Arena Football League and in NFL Europe that the Rams made him their backup quarterback last year. Now he's replaced starter Trent Green, who was injured in the preseason and lost for the year. Mr. Warner also arrived at the right time for his wife, Brenda, and her two children. They met in 1992, when Brenda already had a daughter and a son, Zach, who is blind. Brenda dated men who lost interest when they learned of her children, but she says, "Kurt showed up the next morning and wanted to meet them. He fell in love with them before he fell in love with me." They married two years ago and added another son last year. Tamir Goodman
Jewish high-school basketball phenom Tamir Goodman finally found a college that will accommodate his commitment not to play on the Jewish Sabbath, but it's not Atlantic Coast Conference power Maryland (see WORLD, Feb. 27, 1999). He's made an oral commitment to play for Towson University near Baltimore. "We found the right fit," his father, Karl, told the Baltimore Sun, noting that Towson will try not to schedule games and practices on Friday nights or Saturdays. The 6'3", 159-pound senior averaged 35.4 points last season at the orthodox Talmudical Academy in Pikesville, Md. Last spring the University of Maryland offered him a scholarship and Tamir was supposed to sign a letter of intent in November, but the school apparently backed away when it couldn't arrange its schedule to adapt to his beliefs. Latrell Sprewell
The New York Knicks saw fit to reward troublemaking Latrell Sprewell with a five-year, $61.9 million contract extension, which he signed four days before the start of the season. Prior to signing the deal he was fined nearly $130,000 by the team for leaving training camp for a week so he could drive across country and clear his head. Apparently his head was clogged with dismay after he was ordered to pay $105,000 in punitive damages for running a slow-moving car off a California road. He led the Knicks to the NBA Finals last season after an injury to center Patrick Ewing, and the team expects to lean heavily on Mr. Sprewell's enormous talents again this year. Dimitrius Underwood
The Minnesota Vikings drafted first-round draft choice Dimitrius Underwood early this year and on Aug. 1 signed him to a five-year, $5.3 million contract. He left training camp a day later, saying he had lost his desire to play football. He later told a reporter that he was considering Christian ministry, although he had no formal training. His mother, Eileen Underwood, is a Pentecostal minister in Philadelphia and says "there are controlling spirits" in the church Mr. Underwood attended while at Michigan State. The Vikings released him, and after he decided to return to football, the Dolphins signed him for $395,000 this season. But on Sept. 25 police found Mr. Underwood wandering the streets talking to himself. They arrested him, then released him after he posted bond on an outstanding warrant for failure to pay child support. The following day, Sunday, he cut his throat but did not die, and was rushed to the hospital for surgery that proved successful. The Dolphins put Mr. Underwood on the reserved-nonfootball injury list, and he will not play this year. "This will allow him to focus on his recovery," said coach Jimmy Johnson. "He is going through some difficult times right now." Mr. Underwood is in a Michigan mental health facility by judicial order, and has undergone two psychological examinations. One evaluation determined that he suffered from bipolar disorder, which is similar to manic depression and is treatable with prescription drugs. He will remain under psychiatric care until he has another hearing before the Michigan courts.

-Mr. Chesser is a WORLD Journalism Institute student

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