CANTON, Ohio — Former Rams quarterback Kurt Warner was officially enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame last night, delivering a stirring speech at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium. Now an NFL Network analyst, Warner spoke of the lessons he learned throughout the course of his professional career — noting that the "pro football" and not just "NFL" moniker aspect of the Hall applies more to him than the vast majority of inductees.
If you weren't able to catch the spell, here are a few of his best quotes. And you can watch his full speech in the embedded video above.
On becoming a quarterback in high school
"You see, my dream to play in the NFL didn't start at the QB position. It began wanting to be the next great wide receiver — the next Steve Largent, or Charlie Joyner, or Lynn Swann. Yes, I know how outrageous that sounds now, especially as often as my boys remind me of my Madden speed rating.
"But that all changed when I showed up at high school. At my first practice, our coach was separating us by position, when he realized no one was trying out for quarterback. So he lined us up and asked us all to throw it as far as he could. It was the one competition in my entire life I didn't want to win. But as fate would have it, I did, and was promptly switched to QB.
"Now I cannot confirm or deny if tears were shed that day. But unquestionably, my dreams of playing in the NFL had been crushed."
On finding inspiration from Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino*
"I was stocking the cereal aisle, opened up a case of Wheaties, and on the box was one of the men in a seat behind me — Dan Marino. Once on the shelves, it seemed that 'Dan the Man's' eyes followed me, like one of those creepy paintings in a horror movie, as I walked back and forth throughout the night. Every time I looked at the box, Dan seemed to be asking me, 'Are you going to spend your life stocking someone else's cereal boxes? Or are you going to step out and make sure someone else is stocking yours?'" [Note: Warner did, in fact, get his own cereal — Warner's Crunch Time]
On receiving a tryout from the Rams
"It was the chance I had been waiting for. I showed up at Rams Park early and with bells on. Then I proceeded to have the worst workout of my life. I called [my wife] Brenda from the hallway and told her, 'I blew it. I blew my last chance at the NFL.' But a few days later, I'd get a call from the Rams offering me a contract."
On finding out he'd be the Rams' third-string quarterback
"It's 1998, the night before final cuts, and one of the biggest questions was, 'Who would be the Rams' third-string quarterback?' So [then-head coach] Dick Vermeil polled his entire staff on which of us to keep. The votes were split down the middle, so the decision would be left to instincts of the head man. I'll never forget the moment I found out I'd made the team. I was wandering the halls of Rams Park — the same halls from which I'd called Brenda informing her I blew my tryout — and who do I run into [but] coach Vermeil. And not very often do you find out your football future in the hallway of the facility. But after everything else that I'd been through, why should this be surprising?
"It was there I found out the first step of my dream had been realized. But, 'You made the team,' was not the statement that would leave the greatest impression. It would be the one that followed. Coach V looked me in the eye and said, 'The reason you made this team is because I feel there's something special about you — something different. And I couldn't let you go without seeing if it was true.'
"Coach, you know I love you. And I'm indebted to you for giving me that chance. I spent my entire career trying to prove you right. In a business by head decisions, thanks for following your heart."
On making an exception to thank one particular teammate
"In the ultimate team game, I'm not one for singling guys out because all of you played a special role in my being here. But I would like to recognize one teammate who had a more profound impact on me than any other: Trent Green.
"Our paths crossed in the most incredible of ways, and I acknowledge you could easily be the one standing up here tonight. But the class that you showed while dealing with the toughest of situations is etched in my mind. 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. Thanks for sharpening my character with yours."
Check out photos of Rams legend Kurt Warner being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Photos by Ben Liebenberg and Logan Bowles.