Kurt Warner Reflects on Road to the Hall of Fame

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It's one of the most unlikely journeys in professional football -  a winding road that starts way back in 1994 when an undrafted Kurt Warner was signed by the Green Bay Packers after starting just one season of college football at Northern Iowa. 

It features the long aisles of the local Hy-Vee grocery store where Warner worked for a measly $5.50 an hour bagging groceries after getting cut as the Packers' fourth-string quarterback. It includes a stint as a standout in the arena league as part of the Iowa Barnstormers and one year in the European football league with the Amsterdam Admirals.

What many will remember of Warner's story comes in 1999 when he was given the opportunity to start for the Rams after Trent Green went down with an injury. That year with Warner at the helm, the Rams officially became "the Greatest Show on Turf" culminating in a Super Bowl XXXIV win over the Tennessee Titans.

He went on to lead the team to one more Super Bowl appearance before moving on to the New York Giants. The quarterback spent one season on the East coast until he headed back west to Arizona, playing out the rest of his career as a Cardinal - resurrecting the team and guiding them to their first Super Bowl appearance in 2008 before officially retiring from the game in 2009.

It's a story of perseverance and taking chances. A story of opportunity. And according to Warner, it's one of the most relatable journeys there is.

"It will always be different, it will be one unlike anyone else's," he said on Thursday of his path to the Hall of Fame. "It allows a lot more people to be associated with it and be inspired by it. There was a place in my road that so many people find themselves in [and] they can tap into my story a little bit and say he was here at that point." 

On Saturday Warner will join the best of the best in Canton, Ohio where he will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Though his journey was not the straight path of many standout football players, Warner says that regardless of his circumstances, he made the most out of every opportunity, knowing there are not always second chances to be given.

"What I saw when I was going through the process was yes I sat on the bench, but the one year I played I was the best in the conference," he said. "When I played in Europe I was the best statistically. I [couldn't] live with thinking this is what I am supposed to do without getting a chance to do it."

"I knew stepping in there that this would be my only opportunity," he said of his time with the Rams. "This was going to be my last chance. If I showed people that I couldn't play, no one was giving me a second chance."

Luckily for Warner, he wouldn't need that second chance, amassing over 32,000 yards for 208 touchdowns throughout his career. 

Current Rams head coach Sean McVay remembers watching Warner's iconic career play out as young teenager. McVay was on hand at the 1999 Super Bowl game, watching Warner take over the offense and bring his team up to the highest level. It's a memory he will always cherish of a moment paramount to the Rams' history.

"It's funny, because I lived in Atlanta at the time and for my birthday, which is pretty cool, my grandfather got us Super Bowl tickets when they ended up beating the Titans, so I was at that game," McVay recalled. "They found a way to rally around Kurt Warner and it leads to a Super Bowl. You look at the offense, defense and that's what championship teams are like. They're mentally tough, they find a way to work through that adversity and that's kind of what I remember, especially from that championship season." 

"It's a great story of just overcoming the odds and you never know when your time is going to come, but when it does let's be ready to deliver. We talk about those things all the time and he's the epitome of it and it leads to a Hall of Fame career," McVay added.  "I'm very proud of what he's accomplished, especially being such an important part of this organization's history."

And while Warner's career is full of many incredible moments like that one, Warner says that it was not a specific game or play that he remembers most. Rather, it was being a part of bringing up two organizations, installing what McVay refers to as a "championship mentality" in both the Rams and the Cardinals.

"As you go through it every quarterback likes to throw for a lot of yards and a lot of touchdowns, [but] the greatest attribute is the ability to raise the play of the people around them," Warner said. "To be able to do that with different organizations [that] nobody ever expected to be in a Super Bowl, to me is a highlight of my career. Changing the culture of two organizations is by far the crown jewel of my entire career."

As we approach Kurt Warner's enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame check out some of the best photos from his career.

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