When former quarterback Kurt Warner became an overnight sensation for the St. Louis Rams in the late 1990s, he rubbed a few people the wrong way for his outspoken Christian faith. He says he learned the hard way that he should've been more sparing with his religious rhetoric, and that he should've simply let his actions do most of the talking.
Now he's got the same advice for Tim Tebow, the rising star QB for the Denver Broncos who is also outspoken about his Christian faith. In an interview with the Arizona Republic, Warner said that Tebow should tone it down a bit – maybe even on the "Tebowing."
"You can't help but cheer for a guy like that," Warner told the newspaper. "But I'd tell him, 'Put down the boldness in regards to the words, and keep living the way you're living. Let your teammates do the talking for you. Let them cheer on your testimony.'
"I know what he's going through, and I know what he wants to accomplish, but I don't want anybody to become calloused toward Tim because they don't understand him, or are not fully aware of who he is. And you're starting to see that a little bit."
Tebow is getting more attention than usual since he became the Broncos' starting quarterback last month. Denver was 1-4 when Tebow became the starter, and they've won five of six games since with him at the helm. With that, though, has come more scrutiny – and not just about his football skills. Former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer said recently that he wished Tebow would "just shut up after a game. . . . I think that when he accepts the fact that we know that he loves Jesus Christ, then I think I'll like him a little better. I don't hate him because of that, I just would rather not have to hear that every time he takes a good snap or makes a good handoff."
Warner was more diplomatic, but essentially had the same message: Chill out on the God talk. And he speaks from experience: After leading the Rams to a Super Bowl victory, Warner thanked Jesus on national TV, and kept doing so for some time afterward. Till he learned his own lesson, which he now imparts to Tebow.
"There's almost a faith cliche, where (athletes) come out and say, 'I want to thank my Lord and savior,' " Warner told The Republic. "As soon as you say that, the guard goes up, the walls go up, and I came to realize you have to be more strategic.
"The greatest impact you can have on people is never what you say, but how you live. When you speak and represent the person of Jesus Christ in all actions of your life, people are drawn to that. You set the standard with your actions. The words can come after."
(photo by Jeffrey Beall)