Kurt Warner’s Rise To Stardom – A Journey That Started With Arena Football
Arizona Cardinals Quarterback Kurt Warner’s journey to the NFL will be one left to be documented for the history books. One chapter that will be written for sure will be that Kurt is the one of the few players who has played in three different leagues AFL, NFLE, and NFL) in his journey to stardom. Born June 22, 1971 in Burlington, Iowa, Kurt Warner played high school ball at Regis High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and went on to the University of Northern Iowa. At UNI, Warner was third on the Panthers’ depth chart until his senior year. When Warner was finally given the chance to start, he was named the Gateway Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year.
An undrafted free agent, the 6’2/220 QB, attended the Green Bay Packers training camp in 1994, but was released before the regular season began. Warner returned to Northern Iowa and worked as a graduate assistant coach with the football team, all the while still hoping to get a tryout with an NFL team. With no NFL teams willing to give him a chance, Warner turned to the Arena Football League in 1995 and signed with the Iowa Barnstormers. Warner was named to the AFL’s All-Arena first team in both 1996 and 1997 as he led the Barnstormers to Arena Bowl appearances in both seasons. He was also named twelfth on a list of the twenty best Arena Football players of all time.
Following his stellar performances with the Arena Football League, in 1998, Warner was signed by the St. Louis Rams and was allocated to NFL Europe’s Amsterdam Admirals. Warner led NFL Europe in touchdowns and passing yards. His backup was Jake Delhomme, now the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.
Warner was the backup quarterback for the St. Louis Rams during the 1998 regular season and the 1999 preseason. When starting quarterback Trent Green was injured in a preseason game, Warner took over as the starter. With the support of running back Marshall Faulk and wide receivers Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Az-Zahir Hakim, and Ricky Proehl, Warner completed one of the top seasons by a quarterback in NFL history by throwing for 4,353 yards with 41 touchdown passes and a completion rate of 65.1%. The Rams’ high-powered offense was nicknamed “The Greatest Show on Turf” and registered the first in a string of three consecutive 500-point seasons, an NFL record. Warner threw three touchdown passes in each of the first three games in the 1999 season, his first three NFL starts. He is the only NFL quarterback in history to accomplish that feat, and only the second other than Dan Marino to do it in his first two NFL starts.
Since last playing for the Rams, his voyage has taken him to the Big Apple as backup to Eli Manning and has taken him to The Arizona Cardinals, now a place he calls home sweet home, especially after this year’s performance.
Although footballs fans here in America might not pay much attention to the Arena Football League, this league has propelled several players to the next level, players such as Greg White of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Rasheed Davis of the Chicago Bears, among others. I am convinced that the hard-knocks ironman styled indoor game of Arena Football prepared Mr. Warner for life in the outdoors.
But as luck and history would have it on February 1, 2009 at about 6:38 pm, Kurt Warner will lead the Cardinals to break the 90 year drought that the Cardinals have held. Being an Eagles’ fan myself, it will be a bitter sweet felling, but not even a lackluster fan like me could deny his place in history. Kudos to Kurt and the Cards.