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Getting a chance at a dream job

At 10 p.m. Thursday, USA Network premieres “The Moment,” a reality series that gives people a second chance at realizing their dreams.

The host is former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner, who knows something about second chances.

After the NFL didn’t draft him in 1994, Warner got to try out for the Green Bay Packers that same year but was released before the beginning of the regular season.

Warner moved in with his in-laws and got a night job stocking shelves at a grocery store in Cedar Falls, Iowa, for $5.50 an hour.

He later went to work for his alma mater, the University of Northern Iowa, as an assistant coach. When no NFL team wanted him, Warner then found success in the Arena Football League, which led to a tryout invitation from the Chicago Bears that he ultimately couldn’t attend.

When the NFL still didn’t come courting, Warner signed on with NFL Europe. Impressing observers there, he returned to the U.S. as a third-string QB for the St. Louis Rams. Finally, in 1999, he broke out of the pack and wound up the NFL MVP at the end of the season, ultimately leading the Rams to victory in Super Bowl XXXIV on Jan. 30, 2000. He retired in January 2010 after 12 seasons.

In “The Moment,” ordinary Americans who have given up on the career of their dreams are given two weeks to see if they have what it takes to make that dream a reality. They leave home to work with expert mentors in their chosen field in preparation for the job interview they long ago gave up believing would ever come.

Owing to his history, Warner understands the contestants’ hunger for success.

“Because of my story,” he says, “and how I was able to grab hold of that second opportunity and run with it, it gives me a unique perspective to help encourage and inspire.

“You can’t let an excuse, and you can’t let a circumstance, you can’t let somebody else who’s told you no, the fact that you’re too old or whatever, deter you from chasing after what you think you’re supposed to do.”

And even if the contestants don’t wind up with the jobs they interview for, Warner emphasizes that they don’t go away empty-handed.

“The great thing about this show,” says Warner, “is that it’s not an end-all, be-all at the end of the day, whether they get the job or not. The hope is that you get them back focused on their dream, get them focused on their passion, and they become alive again in those two weeks.

“It instills in them that fire of ‘this is what I’m supposed to be doing, and I’ll find a way to do this.’ It’s always easier when there’s an opportunity directly in front of you. The door’s already open, and all you have to do is walk through it.”

The contestants are Robert Capita, a former aspiring Olympic sailor who gets a chance at captaining an America’s Cup yacht; Tracie Marcum, who has always dreamed of being a professional sports photographer; Kyle Shields, who gets the chance to be a race-car driver; Derek James, a husband and father who wants to leave IT security behind to become a chef; one-time football coach Vincent Moiso, who must prepare for an interview at the University of Notre Dame; Lance Greathouse, who abandoned toy design when his younger brother, also his inventing partner, died; suburban wife and mother Renee Chambers, who has longed to be a choreographer but fears abandoning her family as her musician father did; Jennifer O’Donnell, who wants to return to costume design; and Phil Theodorou, who has a chance to be a conductor for the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.

“The most fun for me,” Warner says, “is just watching these people step into what they’re passionate about and watch how that transforms them.”