Warner Rediscovers "Fountain of Youth" in Desert...
Only a few years ago was quarterback Kurt Warner almost a forgotten name in the league and possibly on his way out of the NFL. It was 2004, after having been released by the Rams Warner signed with the Giants to be the starter, but only after having the job for a short while he was replaced by a young up and coming arm in the league, Eli Manning.
Could the league’s two-time MVP be done in the NFL as a starter? Sitting on a cold bench in New York back in 2004, it sure looked that way.
After signing with the Cardinals in 2005, his days on the Giants sideline are now many, many warm days in the Arizona sun behind him. These days Warner has rediscovered the fountain of youth and has his team on the verge of reaching heights that this franchise has not seen in over 60-years.
This Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals will play host to the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship. While the road traveled for the 37 year old has had its bumps and bruises, his return to center stage has been well deserved.
Back in the days of the “Greatest Show on Turf,” Warner broke into the limelight like a made for television story or Hollywood script. Warner’s beginnings may have been humble, bouncing around the Arena Football League and NFL Europe, but his arrival into the NFL was nothing less than magical.
Like so many of us normal folk, back in 1998 Warner paid his dues working a simple job at a grocery store, keeping his nose to the grindstone just looking for his break. Little did he know his fate was just around the corner and his time was soon to come.
Lacking the pedigree that comes with most star athletes in the NFL, Warner would wait for opportunity, hear its’ call and rewrite history. As it so often does happen, his shot would come at the cost of another man's misfortune.
In 1998, Warner was signed by the St. Louis Rams, and he would be the backup for starter Trent Green in the '99 season. An ill-fated injury during the preseason would sideline Green and Warner would get his chance to shine.
And shine he did.
After winning two NFL MVP awards while leading the Rams to a Superbowl Championship in 1999 and a return trip to the big dance in 2001, it only took a couple of seasons for Warner’s shine to fade and his Cinderella story to come to an end.
Or so it had seemed.
Just three years after being cast aside by the Giants, Warner has landed on two large feet in Arizona and resurrected the magic that had made him the belle of the ball in St. Louis.
Following a strong finish in 2007, where he passed for more than 3400-yards and tossed 27 touchdowns, the Cardinal’s All-Pro quarterback has turned back the hands of time.
In 2008, nothing would be handed to Warner. From the word go in training camp he would have to compete and prove his worthiness as the starter. It didn’t take him long to show that he was the right choice passing for over 360-yards in Week Two and throwing three touchdowns.
Warner has not just been good this season, he’s been a master of his craft completing over 67 percent of his passes on his way to 4,583-yards passing with 30 touchdowns. He's had seven games this season with over 300-yards passing and had a stretch of eight games where he tossed at least two touchdowns.
For the Cardinal's quarterback this has been one wild ride from his days in St. Louis, to his travels through New York, to present day in the desert sun. It is not often that people are given a second chance at greatness and certainly when you look at Warner's history, it becomes very easy to join his bandwagon.
Warner has persevered and overcome longs odds to get where he is; first by securing Arizona's first win in the playoffs in over 60-years against the Falcons and then last Sunday a huge upset on the road over the Carolina Panthers.
Warner has been steady and precise throughout the playoffs, resembling the form that earned him a Super Bowl MVP almost 10-years ago
Right now, Warner is playing with new life and house money. At 37-years of age, he wasn't expected to be the starter this season, he should be on the decline of his career, and his playing skills are supposed to be deteriorating. He has defied all logic, just like a certain "golden boy" was doing up in Green Bay just a year ago.
With the NFC Championship now just days away, Warner has added a few new chapters to his Cinderella story. This Sunday while father-time sleeps, Warner will be looking to write his happy ending as he and his red-birds continue their march toward Tampa.
It is very likely that Warner will have an entire state standing behind him as he and his team head into unexplored territory against the Eagles. When the Arizona sun sets in the West on Sunday, Warner and company will be hoping that their story will continue towards a "happily ever after" ending in Tampa.
This chronicle may not be the 'movie of the week' just yet, but seeing how Warner's road traveled has come full circle has to be one of inspiration and admiration. If this fairy-tale should end on Sunday, this will still be considered a feel-good story worth remembering and talking about.
It will be interesting to see how everything plays out on Sunday when the Cardinals and Eagles meet, but for the fans of Arizona and all of the Cardinal's players, Sunday will be a new experience and one to remember regardless of the outcome.
by David G. Ortega