Kurt Warner: A True Underdog Story

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
Kurt Warner: A True Underdog Story
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Kurt Warner's first opportunity in the NFL came during a Green Bay Packers training camp in the summer of 1994. He failed to impress and was sent packing before the regular season even came.

After missing out, Warner needed to find a job and began stocking shelves at the Hy-Vee grocery store in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

His salary? $5.50 per hour.

His aspirations of becoming a starting quarterback in the National Football League never faded, however.

Despite not being offered a job by another NFL team, while stocking shelves, Warner returned to his college of Northern Iowa and worked as a graduate assistant coach with his football team.

Still with no calls from an NFL team, Warner decided to take an opportunity with the Arena Football League during the 1995 season and signed on to quarterback the Iowa Barnstormers.

In the 1996 and 1997 seasons, Warner led the Barnstormers to the Arena Bowl in both years.

After his performance in the AFL, he caught the eye of St. Louis Rams head coach Dick Vermeil. He was signed by the Rams and sent over the Atlantic to the NFL Europe where he led the Amsterdam Admirals in passing yards and touchdowns. He returned to the team as the backup quarterback behind starter Trent Green.

Warner returned as Green's backup on the Rams for training camp and preseason in 1999, but tragedy struck during the third preseason game against the Chargers, when Green went down with a season ending injury.

Vermeil wouldn't even think about putting in an inexperienced quarterback who was only four years removed from stocking shelves at a local grocery store.

Would he?

Sure enough, he did, but not before the support from running back Marshall Faulk and the entire Rams receiving unit. Vermeil was hesitant, but gave in and handed Warner the ball.

Warner took advantage of the opportunity. He started all sixteen games during that season, compiled 4,353 passing yards, 41 touchdowns and had a quarterback rating of 109.2.

The powerful offense led by Warner was nicknamed "The Greatest Show on Turf."

After leading the Rams to a 5-0 record and starting out the season with 15 touchdowns and three interceptions in his first five games, the fine people at Sports Illustrated put him on the cover with the headline, "Who IS This Guy?"

Warner took the Rams on his shoulders for the 1999 season and finished up with a 13-3 record, first in the NFC West.

For his outstanding performance over the course of the regular season, Warner was named the league's Most Valuable Player.

He wasn't done yet.

A 13-3 record gave the Rams the first seed and a first round bye in the playoffs.

In Warner's first playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings, the high powered offense continued to put on a show, scoring 49 points with Warner leading the charge with five touchdown passes for 391 yards.

The Rams moved on to the NFC Championship game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While Warner didn't have a great game (one touchdown, three interceptions), the team still managed to come out with the ugly "W" and headed to the Georgia Dome for Super Bowl XXXIV.

The challenger? The Steve McNair-led Tennessee Titans.

Arguably, one of the most amazing games you will ever see. Warner led the charge onto the field in Atlanta before a crowd of 72,000+ people.

He went out and tossed two touchdowns and threw for 414 yards and with the score at 23-16, with the Rams leading, the Titans took the ball back with 1:54 to go in the regulation and 90 yards to go.

McNair led the team down to the Rams 10 yard line and used their final timeout with six seconds remaining.

Can you even write a better scenario for a Super Bowl?

With six seconds on the clock, McNair took the snap and found receiver Kevin Dyson about five yards from the end zone. Dyson snatched the ball, but linebacker Mike Jones attempted a wrap up tackle about two and a half yards shy of the goal line. Dyson reached out and attempted to place the ball over the goal line, but missed by mere inches away.

The result? The Rams defeated the Titans by a score of 23-16 and shut the door on one of the most amazing single seasons by a quarterback in NFL history.

Kurt Warner's accolades in Super Bowl XXXIV deemed him as the Super Bowl MVP.

A superb season and one of the most memorable quarterback performances you will ever see.

Warner later went on to spend the next four seasons in St. Louis. He was named NFL MVP for the second time in three years during the 2001 season when he threw for 4,830 yards with 36 touchdowns and 22 interceptions and led the Rams to an NFL-best 14-2 record and yet another Super Bowl appearance.

He joined the New York Giants and became their starting quarterback in the 2004 season, but was replaced after nine games by incumbent franchise quarterback Eli Manning.

The Cardinals came calling and Warner signed a one year, $4 million deal to play in Arizona.

After three starts, he was benched in favor of Josh McCown. He took over the starting job once again in week nine, but partially tore his MCL in a week 15 game, ending his season.

The following February, he signed a three year contract to remain in Arizona. He again lost the starting job after four games, this time to a quarterback who was to become the new franchise quarterback, Matt Leinart.

In 2007, Warner was finally worked back into the mix, starting 11 games. He finished the season with 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

Under Warner, the 2008 Cardinals took the NFC West with a 9-7 record, but it was just the beginning.

After a 30 touchdown season, the 37 year old quarterback continued to dominate throughout the playoffs, defeating the Falcons in the wild card round, Panthers in the divisional round and Eagles in the NFC Championship game, in which Warner tossed four touchdown passes.

He once again found himself in the Super Bowl.

As heavy underdogs going in against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Warner did his best to give the Cardinals their first championship since 1947, passing for 377 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Arizona ended up on the losing end and the Cardinals spectacular playoff run came to a close.

Heading into 2009, Warner is still at the top of his game and one of the best quarterbacks in the league at the age of 38.

After 11 seasons in the NFL, Warner has eclipsed 28,591 passing yards, 182 touchdown passes and is the second most accurate quarterback in NFL history with a 65.7 career completion percentage, trailing only Chad Pennington.

How's that for a guy who went from making $5.50 an hour stocking shelves in a local grocery store to being named league and Super Bowl MVP in the span of five years?

Load More Stories

Follow Arizona Cardinals from B/R on Facebook

Follow Arizona Cardinals from B/R on Facebook and get the latest updates straight to your newsfeed!

Out of Bounds

Arizona Cardinals

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.