Kurt Warner’s Day is Here At Last
The journey began in the front yard of his childhood home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Next stop was the University of Northern Iowa. Then the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League. Then NFL Europe. Then, after nearly six years of waiting and a short time stocking shelves at a grocery store, Kurt Warner got the opportunity he had been waiting for his entire life.
Warner’s journey almost doesn’t seem fitting without a final stop at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. It’s a journey that’s been told time and time again and then told a few more times. It’s difficult not to tell his story.
He started just one year at quarterback while at Northern Iowa. Nonetheless, Warner received player of the year honors during that season. He then tried out for the Green Bay Packers but failed to earn a roster spot prior to the start of the regular season. He stocked shelves at a grocery store during the overnight shift so that he could stay in football shape during the day — attempting to keep the dream alive.
His dream remained alive after a few months when he took an opportunity to play for the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League. It was there where he made a name for himself. He set all sorts of records while taking the Barnstormers to two Arena Bowls in three years. His three seasons in the AFL earned him a spot in their Hall of Fame.
Like I said, his three seasons in the AFL truly made a name for himself. Enough that he was noticed by the St. Louis Rams, who sent him overseas to play for NFL Europe — a developmental league of the NFL at the time. Once again, he excelled in his opportunity and that next season, made the Rams roster.
It was now 1998. Warner was 27 years old.
Fast forward to preseason of the 1999 season. Trent Green was the starting quarterback of the Rams and had expectations on his back that he was going to be the face of the franchise for some time. If you know the story well enough… that didn’t happen.
Three games into the preseason, Green went down with a season-long injury. At last, after years of waiting and dreaming of what he could be in the NFL, it was Warner’s time.
The rest of the story has been told countless times. I’m sure one day it will be turned into a movie because no one in a million years could have predicted it. Warner, a name almost no one knew prior to the 1999 season, produced one of the greatest seasons in NFL history, throwing 41 TD’s and leading the Rams to a 13–3 season. Then in the postseason, Warner led the Rams and the “Greatest Show on Turf” to a Super Bowl appearance vs. Steve McNair and the Tennessee Titans.
What would go down as one of the best Super Bowl’s to ever be played, Kevin Dyson and the Titans fell just one yard shy of a victory and Warner and the Rams had pulled off one of the greatest seasons in sports history. After stocking shelves at a grocery store just five years earlier, Warner was a Super Bowl champion. He was also an NFL MVP.
You couldn’t re-create the 1999 season if you tried.
Warner would lead the Rams to another Super Bowl appearance two years later, but they fell short to a New England Patriots team led by a quarterback named Tom Brady.
Over the years, Warner would go on to play for two other franchises — New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals. He led the Cardinals to their first ever Super Bowl appearance in 2008, joining a short list of NFL quarterbacks to lead two different franchises to Super Bowls.
Looking back on his career, it’s one that undoubtedly deserves to be in Canton. I don’t think it’d ever feel right without him there. He left a mark on the game like none other. Not only by how he performed on the field, but by how he carried himself off of it.
There aren’t many men in Canton like Warner.
He’s a man well known for his faith and love of family. His philanthropic work. And, for simply wanting to help others with the platform that the Lord has blessed him with. The higher power that people believe in and pray to has gifted us with remarkable people throughout the history of human existence, Warner being one of them.
Tonight, Warner joins the football mountaintop. Perhaps no other player in NFL history deserves it more than him. He’s coming home, at last.