CEDAR RAPIDS – They made an impact reading opposing defenses.
The focus Monday, however, was reading greens for charity before two of them moving on to reading teleprompters, which could be in the third’s future.
Former University of Northern Iowa quarterback Kurt Warner, University of Iowa’s Chuck Long and Sage Rosenfels, of Iowa State, provided the Zach Johnson Foundation Classic field at Elmcrest Country Club with three former National Football League quarterbacks, representing each of the state’s NCAA Division I football programs. All three are removed from their competitive days, but Warner and Long remain connected with roles in television.
The event wasn’t about football. It was about giving back to a place key to their growth. All three have Midwestern roots, including Warner from Cedar Rapids and Maquoketa native Rosenfels. Long was raised in Illinois.
“Those guys had success on the field, but come back and understand the importance of giving back off the field,” Warner said. “You’re raised in areas where character, values, ethics are instilled in you at a young age. Even though you go on and have success, those are things you don’t forget. We’re proud to come back.”
The quarterback trio are a source of pride for their respective schools. Long hinted at good coaching, but noted another trait that could be applied to Johnson’s golf career as well.
“I think it goes back to work ethic in this state,” Long said. “You know it and feel it right away. You’ve got to get in tune with it or you get left behind.”
Rosenfels admired Long, following his career as a youth, and Warner said everybody wanted to be a Hawkeye when he was growing up. The field and local sports fans received a treat with three former pro quarterbacks signing many autographs and taking photos during the beautiful sunny day.
Rosenfels shared some of the fans excitement.
“It’s a real honor for me to come here and play with Kurt Warner and Chuck Long,” Rosenfels said. “I talked to Chuck about 15 minutes before the round started. He was my idol growing up. It’s a neat experience have all three schools represented.”
Charity was the headliner Monday. Despite playing against colleagues from rival schools, bragging rights were not on the line between the three signal callers. Long may not have liked his chances anyway.
“I’m not going to be able to brag too much,” he said. “I’m one of those ex-quarterbacks that doesn’t play very good golf. The other two I’m sure play really well.”
Warner’s delivery on the course isn’t as good as his delivery in studio. The former Regis Royal – the same high school as Johnson – has extended his football relationship by working for NFL Network. He has expanded his television presence with a new reality TV show called, “The Moment,” giving people a chance to secure their dream job. He has a wider audience for an opportunity to have a bigger and better influence.
“When you retire, you’re still young enough, you wonder I’ve devoted so much of my life to football what am I going to do next,” said Warner, the two-time NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP, who passed for 32,344 yards and 208 touchdowns in a 12-year career with the St. Louis Rams, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals. “I love that side of it. O get to share who I am and continue to expand the platform that I have with the goal that I want to make a difference.”
The third annual ZJFC provides a chance to make a difference here. It is a reason he has so much respect for the Johnson family.
“They care about people,” Warner said. “They care about make a difference.”
Long was a prolific passer for the Hawkeyes, playing six seasons in the NFL. He played five years with the Detroit Lions, throwing a career-high 11 touchdowns in 1987. Long had a successful coaching career, serving as an assistant at Iowa, Oklahoma, San Diego State and Kansas. He helped guide the Sooners to the 2000 national championship.
He currently calls Cedar Rapids home, working for Holmes Murphy and Associates. His time will be split between insurance and the Big Ten Network. He plans on doing games on the weekend and shows during the week. The schedule isn’t set yet, but he expects to do at least one Hawkeye game. He is excited about the new endeavor.
“It’s a new direction for me,” Long said. “Both parties have been great for me to do both.”
Television isn’t necessarily a seamless transition for former players and coaches. It is one thing to have football knowledge and apply it to the game on the field, and it is another to translate to viewers in a clear and concise form to be absorbed. Plus, you have to learn production lingo and how to speak on camera.
“There’s a technique involved,” Long said. “Like anything, it takes a little bit of time to develop and get good at it, but they like me well enough to have me back from last year, so I’m going to go with it.”
Warner had simple advice for anyone looking to transition into electronic media. Don’t try to be more or different than normal.
“Be yourself,” Warner said. “Anytime you’re genuine, whether it’s in person or on television, it comes across. I think that’s always the goal.”
Rosenfels recently retired from a 10-year pro career with Miami, Houston and Minnesota. He threw for more than 4,000 yards and 30 TD’s, posting a record of 6-6. Rosenfels highlight season was with the Texans in 2007, passing for 15 touchdowns and more than 1,600 yards.
Now, he lives in Omaha, Neb., and will spend a year dedicated to strictly being the best “full-time” dad he can be to his three children.
“I’m done with football. We’ll see what happens in my next step,” Rosenfels said. “I’m definitely going to take some time and slowly find that out. I’m not going to jump into anything quite yet.”
Don’t be surprised if he follows the similar path, leading in front of the camera. After all, the offensive coordinators he worked with during his career mentioned his descriptive skills and knowledge of the game would translate to television analysis. Currently, family is first.
“It’s something I’ll definitely think about,” Rosenfels said. “Not this year, but possibly in future years.”
In those years, the large group of fans that wandered around the manicured Elmcrest course can count on seeing personalities like Warner, Long, Rosenfels, PGA pro Scott Simpson and Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson. Zach Johnson was pleased with the turn out for the third edition of his event, benefitting “Kids on Course” program that provides assistance to families of area grade schools.
“It’s overwhelming with all the people here,” Zach Johnson said on the 18th green at the conclusion of his round. “That’s exactly why we have it. That’s exactly what we want.”
The former Masters champion said he feels “mutual support” exists between the local community supporting his career and the foundation’s contribution back to his hometown.
“I feel like I get pushed every time I’m here,” Zach Johnson said. “I love coming home.”