Kurt Warner nearly missed his chance to become an NFL quarterback. Undrafted out of college, Warner tried out for the Green Bay Packers, but couldn’t crack a roster featuring legend Brett Favre and two other veteran QBs. After failing to land an NFL job, he made a long and arduous trek back to the league, where he took advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Here’s the story of how Warner went from being an unknown player to being a Hall of Fame quarterback.
Humble Football Beginnings
Kurt Warner was the third-string quarterback at the University of Northern Iowa and became the starter in his senior year. He excelled as the play-caller and was named the Gateway Conference’s offensive player of the year.
Undrafted But Undeterred
After not being selected in the 1994 NFL draft, Warner tried out for the Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately, the roster was full of quarterback veterans: Favre, Mark Brunell, and former Heisman winner Ty Detmer. No other team offered Warner a job.
From The Field To The Grocery Store
After failing to make an NFL club, Warner returned to Iowa, where he stocked shelves at a local grocery store. He continued to stay in shape and also worked as a graduate assistant football coach at the University of Northern Iowa.
Into The Arena
Warner signed with the Arena League’s Iowa Barnstormers in 1995. He was an all-star during the 1996 and 1997 seasons when he led the team to back-to-back appearances in the Arena Bowl.
Off To Europe
With his profile raised by his Arena League success, Warner signed a contract with the St. Louis Rams, who optioned him to NFL Europe. In his one season with the Amsterdam Admirals, he led the league in passing yards and touchdowns.
Breakout In St. Louis
Warner was the Rams’ backup QB in 1999 when starter Trent Green tore his ACL in the preseason. He’d worked hard to get his shot and when his time came, he was ready. With Warner at the helm, the Rams offense became the “Greatest Show on Turf” and won the Super Bowl.
The Greatest Show On Turf
The Rams scored an NFL-record 500 points in three consecutive seasons with Warner in charge. They made it to another Super Bowl in 2001 but lost to the New England Patriots. After a few years of poor play and injuries, Warner was released.
Rebirth In Arizona
Warner signed with the Cardinals in 2005 and was in and out of the lineup for a few years. Finally, in 2008, Warner was named the starter and the Cardinals made it to their first Super Bowl, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Warner joined a short list of quarterbacks who’ve thrown for a touchdown in three different Super Bowls.
In a 2009 playoff game against the Saints, Warner was injured while trying to tackle a defender after he’d thrown an interception. The violent hit convinced him that it was time to retire. He’d thrown for over 32,000 yards and scored 208 touchdowns in his NFL career.
Hall Of Fame
Warner was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017. During his speech, he thanked the man who will be forever linked to his story: Trent Green. “The class that you showed while dealing with the toughest of situations is etched in my mind,” Warner said. “Your willingness to share your football secrets so I could succeed was incredibly valuable, but the character you displayed and the way you modeled the definition of teammate was priceless. Those lessons followed me the rest of my career.”