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Kurt Warner: The Story of a Warrior

Orlando MoralesCorrespondent IFebruary 3, 2009

Kurt Warner is the epitome of the “Rags to riches” story. He has ridden the NFL’s roller coaster over and over again. He’s been benched THREE times in his career for younger quarterbacks, but once again he’s fought back and led the once hapless Arizona Cardinals to their first Super Bowl berth.

Warner’s story almost never happened. Following being cut by two teams in the mid-'90’s Kurt was working at the local Hy-Vee department store in Iowa stocking shelves.

In 1995, the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League signed Warner to a contract. He led the Barnstormers to two Arena Bowl berths and was named first team All-Arena in both 1996 and 1997.

In 1998, Warner was given another crack at the NFL, this time with the St. Louis Rams. But the Rams allocated him to the European Football League where he played for the Amsterdam Admirals. Warner led the EFL in passing yards and touchdowns in 1998.

Warner made the Rams 53-man roster in 1999 and was granted the spot as the second string quarterback. Following an injury to veteran Quarterback Trent Green, Warner was named the starter. He led the Rams to a 13-3 record that year and was named league MVP.

Warner capped off his amazing season with a 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl 34 where he was named MVP of the game.

Following two more consecutive seasons in St. Louis, another MVP award and one more Super Bowl berth, Warner fell victim to injuries. In 2003, Warner was benched for rising star Marc Bulger following a horrid start to the season. Realizing that his time in St. Louis was finished, Warner moved on to the New York Giants.

Warner led the Giants to a 4-1 record to start the 2004 season, but was benched for another young quarterback. The Giants top pick in that springs draft Eli Manning had been handed the job following Warner’s hot start.

 Warner left the Giants the following year for the Arizona Cardinals. Warner’s first season in the desert was hampered by injuries and he was eventually sidelined for the season.

In 2006, Warner regained his starting job in Arizona, but struggled to start the season as the Cardinals stumbled out of the gates with a 1-3 record. Following the slow start, Warner was yet again, benched for another young quarterback.

Matt Leinart, the 11th overall pick by Arizona in the 2006 draft was given the job and took over for the duration of the season. Most quarterbacks would have given up following that. But not Warner.

Leinart started the 2007 season as the Cardinals starter, and Warner again the backup. But following a season ending injury to Leinart, Warner was again given the starting job five games into the season. Warner led the Cardinals to an 8-8 record and threw for 27 touchdowns in the final 11 games.

Now we fast-forward to the 2008 season. The Warner-led Cardinals came in with high aspirations. Warner and the Cardinals got off to a 7-3 start and were leading the NFC West. Warner, seemingly on pace for his third NFL MVP award had been dominant.

Arizona slumped in the second half of the season and lost four of their final six games. However, the Cardinals had clinched the NFC West with a victory over Warner’s former team, the Rams.

Warner did not win the MVP, but he has led the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl with the Cardinals victory in the NFC Championship game over the favored Philadelphia Eagles.

Warner threw four touchdowns in the game and led the Cardinals, who trailed at the time 25-24 on the game winning drive and threw the game-wining pass to Tim Hightower with 2:53 left.

In Super Bowl 43, it was Warner and the Cinderella Cardinals, against Ben Roethlisberger and the five-time champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Trailing 20-7 in the fourth quarter, Warner rallied the troops and led them on a furious 16-point rally.

With less than three minutes left in the game, Warner complete a 64-yard touchdown to Larry Fitzgerald to give Arizona its first lead. It was only fitting, that Warner would lead the charge and the Cardinals would shock the world.

But it was the final drive by the Steelers and receiver Santonio Holmes that stole Warner’s spotlight. The Steelers embarked on one of the greatest Super Bowl drives in recent memory, an 88-yard drive in the final three minutes of the game to shock the Cardinals and win their sixth Super Bowl in their 76-year history.

For Kurt Warner and the rest of the Arizona fans, this had to come as a shock. A quarterback twice left at the bottom of the barrel, leads a once maligned team to its first Super Bowl, make a dramatic comeback to take the lead, but then has its heart ripped out.

Warner has stated that he will consider retiring, but if he were to comeback, it would be as a Cardinal.

Two MVP awards (both in St. Louis), Super Bowl victory and MVP award, and one of the highest rated quarterbacks to ever play the game. Warner’s resume` speaks for itself. The numbers do not lie. With a career like this, there should be little doubt that his bust will one day be enshrined in the NFL’s Hall of Fame.