(RNS) — A former ESPN camera operator, Andy Erwin remembers shooting Super Bowl XXXVI when the St. Louis Rams took on the New England Patriots at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans in 2002.
On one end was Kurt Warner — who became part of “Super Bowl lore,” going from grocery store stockboy to two-time NFL MVP in the space of a few years — and on the other was Tom Brady, who at the age of 24 helped lead the Patriots to a 20-17 win in a game that heralded the Patriots’ dynasty.
But to Erwin, one moment that really stood out was when he caught a glimpse of the bond between Warner and his wife Brenda.
“I just watched how he interacted on the sidelines with this spiky haired, tattooed Marine, beautiful lady in the stands, and that was his wife Brenda. The partnership between those two, I was like, ‘I want to know the story behind that,’” Erwin told Religion News Service.
Twenty years later, Erwin is telling that story.
“American Underdog,” a biopic of Warner’s life directed by Erwin and his brother Jon, opens in theaters on Christmas Day. The film had its red carpet premiere in Los Angeles on Wednesday (Dec. 15).
Starring Zachary Levi, Anna Paquin and Dennis Quaid, the movie is one of other faith-based releases from the Kingdom Story Company, which includes “I Still Believe,” based on the real-life story of chart-topping singer Jeremy Camp, and “The Jesus Revolution,” inspired by the true story of a national spiritual awakening in the early 1970s.
“American Underdog” focuses on Warner and Brenda’s relationship — beginning with their first encounter at a country bar. The two fall in love, but life together is not a quick and easy happy ending. An undrafted Warner works at a Hy-Vee grocery store in Iowa, as the couple navigate financial struggles, uncertainty around Warner’s football career and raise her two children, one with disabilities. Warner finally finds some success as an arena football star before he’s given a shot with the NFL when he gets called up by the St. Louis Rams.
One scene shows the couple struggling so much they run out of gas in the middle of a snowstorm as they drive to Warner’s mother’s house to find a warm place to stay. Warner, with a few dollars, runs a few miles to the gas station and back. He returns to find their truck covered in snow, with the family safe inside, but recognizing the danger his family was in.
Throughout the film, you see glimpses of the role their Christian faith plays in the choices they each make.
Early in the movie, Brenda, who was divorced with two children, tells Warner of her early aspirations to join the Marines and start a life in “God country” after a woman at church told her, “God is going to do something great with you.”