Christian Filmmaker Tells Real-Life Rags-to-Riches Story with 'American Underdog'

Speaking with Christian filmmaker Andy Erwin via Zoom, he exhibits a very stoic demeanor.

But when he communicates why he tells true-life stories, he reveals he is a man of solid Christian convictions. Without a doubt, his deep faith contributed to the box-office success of his previous films, "I Can Only Imagine" and "I Still Believe."

In his latest feature, "American Underdog," he tells the story of former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, who went from stocking shelves at a grocery store to support his family to leading the St. Louis Rams to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIV in 1999. Warner earned the accolades of Most Valuable Player of NFL and the Super Bowl.

He continued to defy logic for the next two years and proved he was a formidable force in the NFL, leading the Rams to two playoff seasons—including another Super Bowl. He received Pro Bowl honors for three consecutive years (1999-2001) and was awarded two NFL MVP awards, receiving his second after the 2001 season.

Unfortunately for Warner, the Rams released him in 2004 due to multiple injuries. He later signed a one-year contract with the New York Giants and ended his 12-year career with the Arizona Cardinals. In 2008, he led the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl and eclipsed numerous Cardinals' franchise season records for touchdowns, pass attempts, pass completions, completion percentage and passer rating.

His life is a rags-to-riches story that inspired Andy Erwin and his brother, Jon Erwin, to set his story to film. The director was introduced to the Hall of Famer through a mutual friend and he had the opportunity to learn more about Kurt and his wife, Brenda.

"Brenda was a single mom, had two kids, one of which was special needs and blind. It was her faith that first made the impact on Kurt," Andy Erwin says.

The film is an inspirational story that is timely as the nation still grapples with an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Erwin acknowledges that many people may feel that the odds are against them as they are forced to deal with severe economic fallout, loss of loved ones and friends due to the coronavirus. Yet, Erwin says, he wants Warner's story to provide a sense of hope during this adverse season and for audiences to realize difficult times help to develop greatness.

"The biggest lesson Kurt had to learn is staying in the middle of pressure when the world is crumbling around you—not running from adversity. That's where true greatness is realized," Erwin says. "Greatness is created in the crucible of hardship and struggle. That's where your life has a purpose, and God chooses to use the adversity to give you a special message.

"Regardless of your circumstance, background, and where you're coming from, God doesn't waste the pain. [He] chooses to use the struggle to fulfill the destiny's He's called you to, so there is hope. I hope people walk out the theater believing again and [know] there's a greater purpose."

"American Underdog" opens on Christmas Day and illustrates that God can move the mountains when we have faith, family and determination.

Yolanda Baruch is a freelance writer based in Central Florida who has written for Blavity, The Grio, Madamenoire, and Mic.com. Yolanda covers faith-based films, television, culture, wellness, entrepreneurship, and news. She has written for secular publications but seeks now to use her writing talents exclusively to highlight topics that promote the kingdom of God.

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