Being a bit of a sports fanatic – just a little – I remember the circumstances that brought Kurt Warner’s unlikely rise of stardom a reality.
Trent Green was playing spectacular football for the Rams that pre-season. He had them looking the best they had looked in years. In the final pre-season game of that season, Green was sacked and tore his ACL and his season was over. The Rams had no backup quarterback with any NFL experience. The second string guy was someone who was playing in the Europe earlier that season. Things did not look good. The Rams players look very depressed. Their coach, Dick Vermiel, came right out and announced that Warner would be their starting quarterback, and that he had confidence in him.
The Rams exploded that season. They were the darlings of the NFL and Warner was the leader of the pack. The next few years saw Warner win a Super Bowl ring, and become the NFL, MVP twice. He was the ringleader of what has been called, “the greatest show on turf.”
There were things that set Warner apart from all the other great players in the NFL. First of all, he was a man of faith. Not just for the cameras, but to his core. And, he was not afraid of expressing it, even though he knew it would be something that the media would ridicule him on. Unlike Charles Barkley, he took his job as a role model seriously. He saw the NFL spotlight as a way to reach a broader audience to express his faith.
The other unique thing about Warner was that he was working as a stock boy in a supermarket while he was playing semi-pro football to make ends meet. He truly defied all the odds and became a man of the people.
The story would be worthy of a Hollywood movie if it ended there, but it did not. Warner ended up getting benched by the Rams after three world-class years as their quarterback. He ended up joining the Giants as a back up. He struggled with them and was dealt to the Arizona Cardinals to be a back up to the newly drafted college superstar, Matt Leinart.
It seemed like his once great career was over. Then, just as he had done with the chronic losers in St Louis, he became the Arizona starter and turned them into winners. He led them to the Super Bowl, against all the experts’ predictions, and had a spectacular game. Only a next to impossible play in the closing seconds of the game stopped Warner from leading the Cardinals to victory on the worlds biggest stage.
He answered his critics one last time when he proved that last years Super Bowl appearance was not a fluke by having one of the greatest performances ever in this years playoff game against the Green Bay Packers.
Kurt Warner is what America is all about! He defied all the odds, followed his dreams, and became a great player. He was and will always be an inspiration to anyone who knows his story.
90% of all the ESPN viewers that responded to the poll this week voted that Warner is a definite Hall of fame player. Some of the greatest players ever have not had that high of a percentage of the American people believe in their greatness.
But that is fitting, because as I said, Kurt embodies what America is all about … Opportunity !!!