The NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award is a very special thing. If I were a player, I would treasure that award more than a Pro Bowl selection, or a player of the week award, or maybe even an MVP award.
The award represents something that is larger than anything. It represents not just your accomplishments, but it describes yourself.
Let me explain: The award is given annually to a player that overcomes a serious injury or a horrible string of performances, and becomes a true NFL player again.
Greg Ellis was, if I may say, the perfect person to receive the award for coming back from an Achilles' tendon tear and setting a personal best season of 12.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl selection.
This year has its own set of candidates.
Quarterback Jay Cutler has played remarkably with diabetes. Linebacker Zach Thomas has been one of the best defensive players on the Dallas Cowboys after coming back from a concussion that kept him sidelined for the majority of last year. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma of the Saints is playing very well after suffering a season-ending knee injury last year.
Have I missed anyone?
Oh wait, I did. I missed the winner. At least, the man that I think deserves the award. He is, to me, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
He has a story that could be made into a movie. He is a man who makes me think that one can never give up, because anything can happen, as long as you believe.
He graduated from University of Northern Iowa, a Division-I university. When he went to the NFL in 1994, he wasn't even drafted, even though he was the Gateway Football Conference’s offensive player of the year. 222 players went into the NFL, while the biggest diamond in the rough went unnoticed.
He didn't give up though. He battled his way to a tryout with the Green Bay Packers, but was cut before the season began. He went back to his alma mater as a graduate assistant coach, but still hoped to have a career in the NFL.
However, no NFL team was willing to give him a tryout. He was forced to work the night shift at a Hy-Vee grocery store to make ends meet because he had to take care of not only his girlfriend (who became his wife in 1997), but also her two children from a previous marriage.
My respect for him deepens when he stayed with her when her parents were tragically killed by a tornado in their home. It is one thing to break his back for himself, but he did it for two kids, that aren’t even his, and still is there for her in her time of crisis. He was doing the “for better or worse,” part of the wedding vows, and they weren’t even married!
No matter how hard he worked though, they still struggled. So he decided to do what he did best, and that was football. He signed with the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League and was an immediate success, taking his team to Arena Bowl appearances in 1996 and 1997.
In 1997, he received a tryout with the Chicago Bears but could not do anything because he received a venomous spider bite on his throwing arm while on his honeymoon.
He still didn’t give up. He just kept coming and coming. After getting a roster spot on the St. Louis Rams, he was allocated to the Amsterdam Admirals of the NFL Europe league.
He finally earned the backup position with the St. Louis Rams. Then, when the starter got hurt, he took over. He won the Super Bowl in his first year, along with the NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP awards. Two years later, he won the MVP award again and he led the Rams to another Super Bowl, but lost to Adam Vinateri’s accurate kicking leg.
After that, he started struggling with injuries and eventually was released. He went to the Giants for a little while, and then he ended up in Arizona. He started for a while, but then was benched in favor of Matt Leinart.
If you haven’t guessed whom he is yet by now, then I will tell you. It is Kurt Warner, the current starting quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals.
He has been amazing this year. He has led the Cardinals to a 5-3 record, first place in the NFC West, thrown 16 touchdowns to six interceptions, 2,431 yards, and a QB rating of 93.9. He even had a perfect game (158.3 rating) against the Miami Dolphins. He has posted a career high completion percentage of 70.2 percent.
I firmly believe that this man is just as good as Dan Marino, and if he isn’t, then, he is just below him. Kurt Warner is the most underrated player in the NFL. He has stats, he has MVPs, Super Bowl, and yet very few people I have met actually know who he is.
I don’t know why is that. Maybe its because Marshall Faulk was the celebrity on the Rams' "Greatest show on turf." Maybe because Warner is modest instead of flashy, or because he has no skeletons in the closet.
I don’t know why he is so overlooked by the NFL and its viewers, but I do know that he is, without a doubt, the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. He has fulfilled every qualification. I believe that the Cardinals will go to the playoffs this year.
Heck, for all we know, with this season, he could win the Super Bowl. He definitely is one of the candidates for this year’s MVP award.
So, be sure to watch a Cardinal’s game if you can. Watch the NFL Comeback Player of the Year show you his excellence. Because you are looking at a legend, a hero, a role model, and a man whom any father wants for a son-in-law.
God Bless you Kurt Warner. I hope our new generation of men grows up to be just like you.