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Kevin Warren delivers inspirational speech at NFL Women's Forum


INDIANAPOLIS – When Kevin Warren stepped on stage to deliver closing remarks at the eighth annual NFL Women's Forum this week at the NFL Combine, he made it personal.

The Bears President and CEO captivated the audience with an inspirational and heartfelt speech in which he described some of the most significant events of his life, the lessons he learned and how he overcame adversity.

Warren spoke about surviving a near-breeched birth, nearly dying after being hit by a car when he was 11 and receiving death threats after postponing the Big Ten football season due to Covid in 2020 when he was Big Ten Commissioner.

Warren opened his speech by discussing his admiration for Nelson Mandela, a South African anti-apartheid activist. Mandela served as the first president of South Africa from 1994-99, but not before he had spent 27 years in jail due to his opposition to a white-only government that did not support racial equality.

Warren revealed that at the bottom of his email signature is the Mandela quote: "It always seems impossible until it's done."

"That has been the essence really of my life, it is the essence of your life, and it was the essence of his life," Warren said.

Mandela's quote has always resonated with Warren because of the imposing obstacles and odds he's overcome literally since the day he was born, Nov. 17, 1963, when he survived a difficult birth.

"I am not supposed to be here," Warren told the audience. "The odds of me being brain damaged, something being wrong, dying at birth, was really, really high."

Warren was just as lucky to be alive after being hit by a car while riding his bike as a kid. The accident in his hometown of Tempe, Ariz., forced him into traction and a full body cast for several months during a long hospitalization.

"I do not know if any of you have had a medical professional tell you you should have died," Warren said. "I had that. I spent the better part of a year in traction. So when I say I have been flat on my back, I have been flat on my back."

When doctors told Warren that his best chance to walk again was to rehab by swimming, most of the settlement money he received from the accident was spent on building a pool in his family's backyard. The lessons he learned from that life-changing experience will be shared in a book he's writing fittingly entitled, "Build Your Own Pool."

"What that really means is that sometimes in life you have got to mount your own horse," Warren said. "I had to build my own pool, and I was so passionate about it.

"The only way I could guarantee that I could swim 365 days a year to give me the best chance to walk and to be an athlete and to have a life is I had to build my own pool literally, figuratively and financially. So I am going to challenge you all to build your own pool."

During his speech, Warren also encouraged attendees at the Women's Forum to "embrace who you are" and "realize that in life, everything is about a journey."

"My prayer every morning is that for me to get a little bit closer to being the person that God designed when he—or she—put together the journey for my life," Warren said. "I would challenge you all every single day when you lay your head down tonight, think back over today and find one thing that you are better at today than you were yesterday. Because when you add up all those little things over your life that may seem very insignificant, you become exceptional."

In addition, Warren discussed his inner drive and unrelenting determination.

"I have a desire that I am not going to give up," he said. "If I were an animal—and I am not saying it because I am [with the Bears]—I would be a grizzly bear. Every single day I wake up with the desire to rip the head off of that day."

It's more than fitting that a someone who identifies as a grizzly is leading the Bears. Warren recalled a conversation from about 15 years ago when his wife, Greta, asked him about the one NFL team he always dreamed of working for.

"I said the Bears," Warren said. "Because of the city, the family, because of the Halas family, the McCaskey family, the way they do business, the '85 Bears, the Monsters of the Midway, because of all the history and tradition."

Warren followed by challenging those in attendance to embrace the essence of a dream chuckle by, "dreaming so big that you cause people to chuckle at your dreams," adding: "Be relentless, work hard, be diligent, be dedicated, get a little bit better every single day, have fun along the journey, and build your own pool, whatever that is."