by Tom Swift

The car jumped the curb and smashed into his bicycle, sending Kevin Warren flying over concrete. He landed on the only nearby patch of grass, saving his life but not his femur.

At 11, Warren found himself in a body cast, his parents calling him their “house plant.” His muscles atrophied and his doctor warned him he might never walk again.

Warren asked one question: “What will give me the best chance of recovering?”

“Swimming,” the doctor said.

On the ride home from the hospital, Warren mulled the $30,000 settlement he would win from the driver of the car that hit him. He told his parents he wanted a pool. “My parents couldn’t afford a pool, and I knew that,” Warren said. “So I told them I would pay for it.”

Warren built an in-ground pool and swam laps at all hours, building the muscle that would make him an athlete and the resolve that would make him a pioneer.

In February, U.S. Bank Stadium will host Super Bowl LII. In August, Vikings training camp will move to a new complex in Eagan. Warren, 54, and the team’s chief operating officer, played a key role in the construction of both facilities. His rise to prominence began with a small amount of concrete, in a small backyard in Arizona.

The progeny of blacks, Mexicans and Choctaw, the racial bouillabaisse of the Southwest, Warren would become a Division I college basketball player and begin building networks in sports, business, and law. Today, he is the highest-ranking black executive working on the business side of an NFL team and the league’s first black COO.

“That time in my life provided a powerful lesson to me,” Warren said. “You have to go and get what your destiny is. You’ve got to be willing to build your own pool. And you’ve got to be willing to pay for it.”

-Jim Souhan, “Vikings’ Man on a Mission,” StarTribune, 11-26-2017