When Mike Morrissey was being interviewed for the head coaching job at Scottsdale Desert Mountain, he discovered he had a lot in common, football-wise, with one of the selection committee members.
They talked about kids and philosophies, how to coach and how they’d run an offense. After Morrissey was hired and their conversations continued, he thought the selection committee member would make an ideal offensive coordinator.
So he asked Kurt Warner: “You want the job?”
And that’s how, on Friday night, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and potential Hall of Fame inductee found himself running the offense for Desert Mountain in its 20-14 overtime loss to Queen Creek.
“I’ve always called plays everywhere we’ve been, but I’m never going to argue with a guy with his knowledge,” Morrissey said. “He knows the game and he sees it really well.”
This is not a new career path for Warner, who keeps busy with his First Things First philanthropic organization and his job as an analyst for the NFL Network. He’s at Desert Mountain because he wanted to spend more time with his son Kade, who’s a junior wide receiver. Once Kade moves on, Warner might as well.
“That’s the biggest thing,” Warner said. “As your son gets to be this age, a junior in high school, you’ve just got a couple more years with him and you know he’s going to be gone 2 ½, three hours a day playing football. It’s a passion of mine anyways, so I think that combination of being able to spend time with him and help him accomplish his dreams along with his buddies … More importantly, it’s a chance to share the passions that I have, for these young men to grow into great young men and to teach them as much as I can about this great game.”
It might be a temporary gig but Warner, not surprisingly, is all in. When Morrissey moved here from Iowa over the summer and checked in on his players as they worked out in the 115-degree heat, there was Warner, flinging the football around – he’s still got that gun, by the way — and helping quarterback Austin Nuessle.
On Friday, you would have thought Warner was back at quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Remember how he used to lick his fingers – prior to his wearing a glove, of course – before every snap? He did the same thing on almost every Desert Mountain play. That competitive streak? When a Desert Mountain touchdown was nullified by a penalty, Warner yelled, “Gosh dang-it.”
He even got on the officials, at one point telling the side judge, “That’s terrible. That’s just terrible.”
For the most part, however, he was unflaggingly positive, even when his players went the wrong way or didn’t do their assignment. As a player he appreciated the positive reinforcement he received from coaches like Dick Vermeil and Ken Whisenhunt, so he’s passing it on to Desert Mountain’s kids. Along the way, he hopes his message transcends football.
“We all see the Xs and Os,” Warner said. “But it’s more than that. It’s teaching them about the game of football and how to play it. It’s teaching them about how to be young men and win and lose. Those are the things that are most important.”
Warner did make a few rookie mistakes. He kept wandering beyond the 25-yard line, a no-no for coaches and players. At one point, Morrissey said, “Coach, you’re going to get a penalty called on us.”
If it wasn’t odd enough seeing Warner with a laminated play sheet stuck in the back of his black shorts, how about this: Queen Creek’s offensive coordinator is Joe Germaine, who was Warner’s backup on the St. Louis Rams team that won Super Bowl XXXIV. How often does a high school football game feature two offensive coordinators from the same Super Bowl team?
“It’s nice to see Joe. He’s such a great guy,” Warner said.
Germaine had the best line of the night. He was asked what kind of offense he thought Warner would orchestrate. Knowing Warner’s love for the passing game, he smiled and said, “I think they’ll throw the ball.”
Good guess. Desert Mountain attempted 45 passes and ran the ball just 10 times.
Some things never change.