The Pro Football Hall of Fame, based in Canton, Ohio, is set to induct its Class of 2017 this weekend and within the seven recipients is a former, familiar gunslinger for the St. Louis Rams and a two-time NFL MVP.
Kurt Warner, a 12-year veteran who played for the Rams from 1998 to 2003, joins Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones, running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Terrell Davis, defensive end Jason Taylor, safety Kenny Easley and kicker Morten Anderson at this year’s festivities.
“If you’re willing to put yourself and your dreams on the line, at the very least you’ll discover an inner strength you may not have known existed,” stated Warner in an interview on the event’s official website.
In his six-season tenure within the Gateway City, Warner started 50 games and compiled a 35-15 record, highlighted by the Rams’ 13-3 Super Bowl-winning campaign in 1999 and a 14-2 runner-up result two seasons later. In both those seasons, he wound up winning the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award and was awarded MVP for Super Bowl XXXIV.
“Maybe he wasn’t even aware of the talent that he had,” said Dick Vermeil, who helmed the Rams coaching spot from 1997 to 1999 in an online interview with the event’s organizers. “I think of a guy with a lot of faith and belief in himself. Not cocky, but confident. Not in awe of his opportunity, and played his very first league game as if he played for five years in a row as a starter. He just had tremendous poise.
“He certainly deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. No one ever did what he’s done, and no one will ever do it again. Ever.”
During his stint as a Ram, he completed 1,121 passes for 14,477 yards and 102 touchdowns, featuring a personal best of 41 touchdowns during the 1999 stretch. Warner was also named to the Pro Bowl three consecutive years (1999-2001).
“Some people think that a guy like Kurt came out of nowhere,” said 1998-2003 team mate Issac Bruce through the event’s website.”But when you really start to peel back the veil and start to peel the orange, you kind of see the work that he put in, his willingness to not give up on his dream.”
Interestingly enough, Warner was arguably more productive during his five-year stop in Arizona. From 2005-09, he started 57 games and competed 1,371 passes for 15,843 yards and 100 touchdowns. The Cardinals’ 2008 Super Bowl appearance resulted in his third trip to the NFL finale and a fourth trip to the Pro Bowl.
“I’ve never seen him nervous, not on the football field” said receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who played with Warner on the Cardinals from 2005 to 2009, to the event’s organizers. “He might have been, but it never came across to me that he was. I guess, when you’re preaching something that could change the outcome of people’s lives, it’s not like throwing football passes. Kurt takes it as a privilege that he has that opportunity.”
Overall for his 12-year career, which includes an underwhelming 2004 season with the New York Giants that saw him hand gun slinging duties to rookie Eli Manning, Warner passed for 32,344 yards and 208 touchdowns. Three TD plunges, one recorded for each franchise, were also recorded.
Warner has always been involved in community outreach. In 2008, the NFL presented him with the Walton Payton NFL Man of the Year Award for his humanitarian efforts.
Following his retirement after the 2009 NFL season, Warner, non-surprisingly, made the conversion from player to broadcaster and signed with the NFL Network as an analyst. He currently appears on both NFL GameDay Morning and NFL Total Access.
In other television, he appeared as a surprise guest on the final episode of NBC’s “The Jay Leno Show” on February 9, 2010 and competed later that year in the eleventh season of ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” franchise, where he reached the Top Five.
“We all learned great lessons from Kurt’s humility, dignity and grace,” stated Los Angeles Rams current co-owner and Vice Chairman Chip Rosenbloom. “We will forever be thankful for the success he brought us and the unparalleled generosity he has shown the St. Louis community and beyond.”
“What I’ve found is that 99 percent of people went through something like I went through,” said Warner. “Moments where people say there is no chance and you only can believe yourself. It happens in football, but outside of football too. That’s why my story resonates with so many people—because that’s what real life is.”
Saturday’s enshrinement ceremony, where Warner will be the evening’s final speaker, begins at 6 p.m. Central on the NFL Network.
For more information on the event, go to their official website.