Kurt Warner hopes gays will be 'much more accepted' in the NFL

For the next two weeks we’re running a daily series of our conversations on the red carpet at the ESPYs. This is the fourth in the series.

Kurt Warner was Tim Tebow before Tim Tebow. A devout Christian, the former St. Louis Rams quarterback was known as much for his religion as he was his football. Warner wouldn’t have it any other way.

After being named MVP of Super Bowl XXXIV, Warner praised the man upstairs: "Well, first things first, I've got to thank my Lord and Savior up above — thank you, Jesus!" The lead banner on his Web site features the Biblical passage Matthew 6:33, which says: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." The tagline on his site reads: "Dedicated to impacting lives by promoting Christian values…."

So when I asked Warner if he had a gay teammate while playing in the NFL, I wasn’t sure if I’d get a one-word answer or a pass on the question. He told me that he didn’t know of any "outright," and he could have left it at that. But he didn’t.

At the same time, it wasn’t anything that I sought out or anything that made any difference to me one way or the other. When I played, it was a different environment, not only in the sport of football, but really around our country. Things have changed dramatically over the last 10 to 12 years. Hopefully it will be much more accepted than it was 20 to 25 years ago.

I asked Warner, who was there with his wife Brenda, where his inclusive version of Christianity comes from.

It comes from my upbringing, to know that faith is important. And it comes from the fact that I realized that Jesus died on the cross for me. And when you come to realize that, and you realize everything that you have and everything that you are is because of what he did for you, to me I have to represent him the way he deserves to be represented. It became a quest of mine, regardless of what we did, whether we made it big and played in the NFL or did something else, that I wanted to represent him with character and being outspoken about my faith.

I related that answer to a lot of what Michael Irvin has shared with me about his religion, and about Irvin’s embracing of the gay community.

He’s a great guy and he represents the right things. You need more guys like that, who will step out and be willing to put themselves in those positions to stand up for things that they believe in. Bottom line is we end up respecting those guys for doing those kinds of things.

Knowing the two men were working together (and still are) at the NFL Network when my Out magazine article about Irvin came out last summer, I asked if he gave The Playmaker some ribbing.

We gave him a little crap at the NFL Network for taking his shirt off and being on the cover of the magazine. But it’s all good. As football players, we’re always going to mess around with guys, but it’s always good-natured.

You can catch up with Kurt Warner on Twitter.

Previously: Pro surfer Anastasia Ashley supports same-sex marriage

PHOTO: Arlington, TX, USA; NFL former quarterback Kurt Warner before Super Bowl XLV between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

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