Summer 2024

Bears CEO Kevin Warren wins Uncommon Award as he strives to 'put the Lord first'

On Friday night in Minneapolis, before taking part in the Arise with the Guys men’s event the following morning at a local church, Chicago Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren became the 10th-ever recipient of the Uncommon Award.

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It’s an honor given annually by Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy to someone who, according to the event website, isn’t “afraid to take the tough road, to follow a higher calling or set a higher standard.” Dungy’s inspiration for the award came from his father, his collegiate coach at Minnesota, Cal Stoll, and Jesus’ words in the Bible passage Matthew 7:13-14. He also wrote a bestselling book titled “Uncommon.”

Warren was hired by the Bears on Jan. 12 after serving for nearly four years as the commissioner of the Big Ten Conference. Before that, he was part of the Minnesota Vikings’ front office from 2005-2019.

Some of Warren’s first public words at his Bears introductory press conference were words of praise to God.

“First and foremost, to God be the glory to stand before you here today,” he said.

At the Arise with the Guys event on Saturday, Warren had an opportunity to talk with Sports Spectrum about that powerful moment and the boldness he exhibited. The entirety of Warren’s interview will be released in a forthcoming Sports Spectrum Podcast episode.

“When (Bears chairman) George McCaskey called and said we’d like for you to be the new president and CEO of the Chicago Bears, when I got home I told my wife, ‘I think the way that I can thank God is to start off the press conference with “To God by the glory,”‘” Warren told Sports Spectrum. “And I made sure to do it because I mean that.

“I’m just so grateful. I just have a heart of gratitude, and Chicago is an absolutely incredible city, an iconic franchise, a phenomenal head coach (Matt Eberflus), all of the elements are in place. So many times people look at challenges. I look at, really, an opportunity for Christ to shine.”

Warren grew up in Phoenix, but faith wasn’t central in his life until God used a near-death experience at the age of 11 to draw Warren to Himself. With his parents at work and his daily chores complete, he was on his way to a nearby high school to play with some friends when he heard a loud screech.

“A woman had lost control of her car in our neighborhood, jumped the curb going almost 40 miles an hour and ran over me and sent me flying almost 40 feet in the air,” he told Sports Spectrum.

The aftermath was a broken femur and wrist and numerous internal and head injuries. He was placed in a full-body cast and told he might not ever walk again.

“I spent months in there and just battled with trying to stay strong mentally, and that’s when I recognized that truly what God had meant. I had heard of God — we went to church — and I said kid, child-like prayers. But that’s when I really grew in the Lord and I recognized that there was a special purpose in my life,” he said.

By God’s grace, Warren recovered rapidly and was able to play college basketball at the University of Pennsylvania and Grand Canyon University. From there, he began a career in sports law that has now led him to the Bears.

“One thing that really moved my spirit when I went [to Chicago] was the fact that we have a chapel in our practice facility,” Warren said. “… It just was affirmation to me that this is the right place to be and we can really put the Lord first and lead in that manner.”

He did just that in his opening statement as a member of the franchise, and he has no plans of stopping any time soon. His excellence as an executive is paired with his boldness in his faith in Christ, and it’s why Dungy decided to honor him as the winner of the 2023 Uncommon Award.

“I promised the Lord that when we win our first Super Bowl (in Chicago),” Warren told Sports Spectrum, “I’m going to start off on the stage and say, ‘To God be the glory.'”

SS PODCAST: Hall of Fameer Tony Dungy on standing for Christ, living ‘uncommon’
TRANSFORMED PODCAST: Tony & Lauren Dungy – Authors of ‘Uncommon Influence’
MAGAZINE: Building Up the Bears
SS PODCAST: Vikings QB Kirk Cousins on his 2022 season, representing Christ
GET IN THE GAME PODCAST: Matt Forte – Former NFL Player