Catching Up with Kurt Warner

Posted Aug 23, 2014

Julia Faron sat down with legendary St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner to discuss lasting memories from his football career, his passion for philanthropy and his upcoming Hall of Fame candidacy.

Kurt Warner’s unlikely path to the NFL will continue to be told to generations of football fans in St. Louis for years to come. This year marks the 15 year anniversary of when the Rams brought the Lombardi trophy to St. Louis for the first time. As time passes, players, coaches and fans alike can reflect more clearly on how special that time was for the team and the city.

“What happens in football and in life is often times you get pulled apart and you go to different arenas and different places but the one connection you always have is that time you spent together,” said Warner. “It’s great to, really, have excuses to comeback together and relive those moments, to renew those friendships and so I’m very much looking forward to the celebrations that are going to happen this year and the different opportunities we’ll have to catch up because of that season and because of this anniversary.”

The Rams will be hosting a Super Bowl XXXIV anniversary celebration at the Monday night game against the San Francisco 49ers on October 13, at the Edward Jones Dome. In addition, Warner’s First Things First Foundation will be hosting ‘A Night with Champions’ on Friday, December 12, at the Pageant. This event will bring back a number of players and coaches from the 1999 team to chronicle that season.

“(Guests will) be able to get into the minds of some of the players and the coaches and some intimate stories and things that happened that year, so it’s really going to be a special event and all of it is to benefit our foundation,” said Warner.

The First Things First Foundation is dedicated to impacting lives by promoting Christian values, sharing experiences and providing opportunities to encourage everyone that all things are possible when people seek to put 'first things first.’ Through this foundation, the Warners continue to support the Homes for the Holidays program as well as Warners’ Warm-up in St. Louis.

“I think there’s such a great connection between me and my family and the community here,” said Warner. “We love coming back, we love doing things in the community here and I can’t say enough about the people here and about how special their place is in our hearts and to our family.”

Warner’s philanthropic efforts were vibrant throughout his 12-year playing career and his charitable emphasis has continued, if not amplified post career. Kurt and his wife Brenda are starting a second foundation called Treasure House, which is a supportive living community for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The first location will open in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2016, and will feature programming that supports social interaction, well-being, health care, life skills and spiritual life.

Not surprisingly, Warner confirmed that the Super Bowl XXXIV win is his greatest memory as a Ram because it meant so much to him given his journey. But it was the smaller victories along the way that made that particular moment so fulfilling.

For reminiscing purposes and to fully appreciate Warner’s unprecedented trail from stocking grocery shelves to Super Bowl MVP, you have to start in college. Warner graduated from Northern Iowa in 1994 after earning the starting quarterback position for that lone season. After going undrafted, he spent training camp with the Green Bay Packers and was released before the season. Warner returned to his home state to play for the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League from 1995-97, until he was signed by the Rams in December of ‘97 to play in NFL Europe with the Amsterdam Admirals in ‘98.

Warner’s success with the Admirals, earned him the third quarterback position for the Rams behind Tony Banks and Steve Bono during the 1998 NFL season. That season he was inactive for 14 games, and saw his first NFL action in the fourth quarter of the Rams’ final game against the San Francisco 49ers.
For the start of the 1999 preseason, Warner moved up to second on the team’s unofficial depth chart behind free agent pick up Trent Green and in front of rookies Joe Germaine and Gus Ornstein. In the third preseason match-up against the San Diego Chargers in the then Trans World Dome, Green suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter and Warner was the next man up.

During Head Coach Dick Vermeil’s post-game press conference, he asserted his allegiance to the back-up quarterback. “Kurt Warner has a lot of attributes and has paid his dues,” said Vermeil. “He has never been given a good enough opportunity…We will rally around Kurt Warner.” The next week, the team traveled to Detroit for their final preseason game, and Warner directed three scoring drives in the first half, solidifying his role as the starter for the regular season opener, which became his first NFL start. 

“To get my first start after all the years to get here and that opportunity, and to get on the field for the first time,” said Warner. “The battles, the friendships – there’s so many, I could go on and on about stories, but I think that has to be the culmination of so much because it meant so much to me personally but then it also coincided with this community coming together, a team coming together and so many guys that never thought that would happen, being able to share that moment.”

Warner’s stat line during that Championship season included completing 402-of-620 passes for 5,416 yards, 49 touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 107.4. He compiled 10 games with at least 300 yards passing, plus one 400-plus yard game (414 yards in Super Bowl XXXIV), which earned him the NFL’s Most Valuable Player honor and his first Pro Bowl berth.

Warner’s career with the Rams lasted four more years and garnered two additional Pro Bowl berths in 2001 and 2002, highlighted by a second Super Bowl appearance against the Patriots in 2001.

After St. Louis, Warner spent one year with the New York Giants before signing with the Arizona Cardinals in 2005. He led the Cardinals to their first ever Super Bowl berth in 2008, setting new franchise records for the club and earning another Pro Bowl honor, before retiring in January 2010.

Warner and Brenda continue to live in Arizona with their children Zachary, Jesse Jo, Kade, Jada Jo, Elijah, and twins Sienna and Sierra. Warner has worked as an analyst on NFL Network since 2010, and can be found on NFL GameDay Morning, and as a regular contributor on NFL Total Access.

In 2015, Warner will be eligible for the first time to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, alongside former Greatest Show on Turf teammates tackle Orlando Pace and wide receiver Isaac Bruce.